Monday, November 26, 2007

Alan Krueger on "what makes a terrorist"

Krueger is guest-blogging at TPM Cafe this week. His first post (here), titled "What makes a terrorist", summarizes the key findings from his book with the same title. Towards the end of the post, he talks about the role of education:

Sidebar: Here are the links to Krueger's posts:

What makes a terrorist.

Defining terrorism.

* * *

What makes a terrorist, then, is someone with a fanatical commitment to pursuing a grievance combined with the perception that there are few alternatives for pursuing that grievance – and a terrorist organization or cell willing to deploy a would-be terrorist. Poverty and lack of education play very little role. Indeed, education may have a counterintuitive effect because highly educated people are more likely to become involved politically and to hold strong opinions. Increasing educational attainment does many wonderful things for a country and its people, but reducing terrorism is not one of them.

The following analogy is particularly interesting:

Many people implicitly view terrorism the same way they view crime: those with low opportunity costs and few legitimate opportunities turn to crime. I argue that a better analogy for terrorism is to voting. People who care about issues vote, even though they often have a higher opportunity cost of time than nonvoters. Terrorists and the organizations that dispatch them seek to make political statements. What makes a terrorist thus depends on the political grievances that terrorists and their organizations are pursuing and the alternatives for pursing those grievances.


  1. Anonymous said...

    The most important factor, which Krueger missed, is religion. People are very unlikely to blow themselves up unless they're doing it in the name of god, and think that they are going to be rewarded in the afterlife with 72 virgins.

    After all, only a few terrorists aren't religiously motivated.