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The role of markets and preferences on resource conflicts

Alex Dickson (), Ian MacKenzie () and Petros Sekeris ()
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Alex Dickson: Department of Ecoomics, University of Strathclyde

No 1819, Working Papers from University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics

Abstract: This article investigates a generalized resource curse. The existing empirical and theoretical literature on the resources-conflict nexus argues that higher resource rents (or a lower opportunity cost of appropriation) exacerbates conflict. We demonstrate that these widely accepted results rely on two fundamental elements relating to market conditions and agents’ preferences. When resource prices are treated as exogenous, we obtain the conventional result, where an increase in the profitability of either the appropriative or productive activity incentivizes agents to reorient efforts accordingly. However, when the price of the contestable resource is endogeneously set (i.e., locally determined), we find the opposite result may hold depending on the nature of agents’ preferences: conflict can increase when the contestable resource becomes scarcer. Intuitively, if the contestable resource is abundant, players’ relative marginal utility of the resource will be low, thereby resulting in low relative prices. Increases in the size of the contestable resource will lead to a reduction in appropriation effort, whereas scarcities will be conducive to conflict. We show an identical result is obtained if markets are absent for the contestable resource, such as when considering civil liberties and political rights.

Keywords: Resource curse; conflict (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C72 D72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 26 pages
Date: 2018-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mic and nep-pol
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