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What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism (Lionel Robbins Lectures) Hardcover – August 16, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Lionel Robbins Lectures
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691134383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691134383
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"What are the individual and societal causes of terrorism? The book's great strength is its focus on new sources of data examined in new ways. The most compelling analysis in the book is of biographical information on operatives from Hezbollah and Hamas. This is a substantial contribution, offering insight into who becomes a terrorist and, as important, pushing terrorism studies in a productive new direction, toward microlevel data. The book provides a valuable service in dispelling the stereotype of the poor, ignorant terrorist."--Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Science

"It seems universally obvious that poverty and poor education breed terrorism. But it's wrong.... [Alan Krueger] went in search of evidence for the terrorism part of the proposition and found next to none. He has set out his findings in What Makes A Terrorist."--Peter Martin, Canberra Times

"This new book by Alan Krueger, full of first-rate empirical work, punctures many myths about terrorism."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"[Krueger] seeks to put the risks Americans face from terrorism into 'proper perspective' with his unique book."--John McCaslin, Washington Times

"What Makes a Terrorist brings together disparate data, such as academic studies and government reports, arraying them into a concise, accessible argument against the notion that we can defeat terrorism through aid and education. While Krueger is careful to affirm that these are useful in combating many social ills, he is adamant that terrorism is not one of them. He offers skilled analysis to show that an aggressive foreign policy based on this fallacious assumption has cost several nations dearly and also warns that continuing along this course may provoke further terrorist acts."--Tony Azios, Christian Science Monitor

"Using raw data from government, academic, and think-tank sources and citing the work of other economists on poverty, race, terrorism, and hate crimes, Krueger explains in clear and accessible prose that the average terrorist suspect is highly educated, professionally employed, from a middle- or higher-class background, and, most important, from a country that suppresses civil liberties...Avoiding jargon whenever possible and defining it when unavoidable, Krueger excels in making his difficult subject easy to grasp without reducing its inherent complexity. The occasional pop culture reference (e.g., to the Daily Show) adds to the appeal. Highly recommended for both academic and public collections."--April Younglove, Library Journal (starred review)

"What makes a terrorist? Are the drivers primarily political or economic? Princeton economist Alan Krueger has made a great study of this question...What Makes a Terrorist lacks a question mark. That's because Krueger, marshaling persuasive statistics and analysis, comes down firmly on the side of politics, noting most terrorists are middle-class and well-educated."--Thomas P.M. Barnett, Knoxville News Sentinel

"Economist Alan Krueger explores this phenomenon with a systematic study of the evidence.... All in all, the research that Krueger gathers together suggests that if there is a link between poverty, education and terrorism, it is the opposite of the one popularly assumed."--Tim Harford, Financial Times

"[Krueger] analyzed data from NCTC and elsewhere, and came up with often counter-intuitive findings...Krueger's book collects comprehensive evidence."--Zack Phillips, Government Executive

"An invaluable little book.... What Makes a Terrorist uses standard tools of economics and statistical analysis to get at the truth about terrorism.... Krueger finds one familiar fact in all his numbers. Countries with fewer civil liberties tend to produce more terrorists."--Daniel Finkelstein, Times (London)

"Krueger's book is a necessary read for anyone who wishes to understand terrorism, especially because many of the popular notions of what causes it are not rooted in reality. One wishes that politicians, especially, would pay attention."--Amit Varma, Live Mint

"[Krueger] in his groundbreaking new book, What Makes a Terrorist, enlists the 'dismal science' to tackle the despicable one. Provocative, dispassionate and accessible, Krueger's book is a breath of fresh air in the stifling climate of empty speculation that dominates the terror dialogue in post-9/11 America."--Ryan Hagen, Brooklyn Rail

"In a compelling analysis, Krueger points out how a lack of legitimate political expression and civil liberties turns some individuals to terrorism. He also provides a pointed and witty account of the problems the U.S. administration has faced in its own attempts at empiricism. . . . This book is a model of how academics can contribute to major public policy debates."--Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"To challenge the widespread view that terrorism is caused by economic deprivation and lack of education, Krueger redirects thinking about terrorism by raising three provocative questions that can be answered by scrutiny of evidence from an economic perspective....Krueger shows how complex the data and issues are, the dangers of moving from correlation to cause--and how to think clearly and courageously about politically motivated violence."--L.J. Alderink, Choice

"I am quite sure that this book will be very widely read; it builds on recent literature by both Krueger and a young breed of scholars who have used technical sophistication to disprove the expected positive effect of poverty and ignorance on terrorism."--Siddhartha Mitra, Eastern Economic Journal

"[E]minently readable and informative."--Ira Smolensky, Magill Book Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"In this beautifully written book, one of the world's most respected economists tackles the question of terrorism. Krueger's work represents the most careful data-driven research ever done in this area. This is a book that a lay audience will read and enjoy, but with a rigor and depth that will inform the experts in the field. This is timely and important work which should play a critical role in shaping our public policies on terrorism."--Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics

"This is a very important book. Krueger proves--with facts, figures, and interviews--that terrorists are not desperately poor killers but well-educated politicians using violence to draw attention to their 'market'--violent change. The way you beat them--as we did in Peru--is not with bigger guns but with better ideas and legal reforms that win over their largest constituency, the poor."--Hernando de Soto, author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

"Professor Krueger's well-researched analysis is exactly the kind of resource the country needs in order to make wise decisions in the war on terror. His extensive data and insightful commentary go to the heart of the causes and consequences of terrorism, with often startling conclusions. A fascinating tour de force, this book will assist scholars and policymakers alike."--Raphael Perl, senior terrorism policy analyst, Congressional Research Service

"This is a book that even George Bush could understand. The United States would be more effective in combating terrorism if the president and his advisors embraced Alan Krueger's fine work. When the history of the 'war on terror' is written, Krueger will be one of the few cited for having taken the time to wrestle with facts and data rather than pander to racist prejudice and fear mongering."--Larry Johnson, CEO of BERG Associates and former CIA counterterrorism official

"These three lectures on terrorism are, despite the gruesomeness of the topic, a delight to read. Who else but Krueger could juxtapose negative binomial regressions and cuts from Comedy Central in a natural way? This book provides clear state-of-the-art answers to fundamental questions about terrorism in a manner that is broadly accessible."--David Laitin, Stanford University


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on November 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an original book that challenges mainstream beliefs about the root cause of terrorism. Learning from foreign policy luminaries such as Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Bernard Lewis in What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, and Thomas Friedman in From Beirut to Jerusalem, I believed that poor economic conditions contribute to high unemployment among youths that are prone to become terrorists out of frustration. It made sense.

Krueger demonstrates that poor economic conditions does not cause terrorism. He dismantles this theory by stating that half of the World's population lives on less than $2 a day. If poverty caused terrorism, we'd be overwhelmed by terrorists.

Much of Krueger's findings are counterintuitive. In some cases they are supported by robust statistical analysis (negative binomial regression). His regression models allow him to occasionally differentiate what directional role various socio economic and demographic variables play in relation to terrorism.

Within the book, Krueger expands on three lectures he gave in England and turns them into three long chapters on the subject. The first chapter addresses who becomes a terrorist. The second chapter covers where does terror emerge? And, the third one covers what does terrorism accomplish?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on November 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a series of three lectures, economist Alan Krueger offers 2 major insights on terrorism, one of them well known but oft forgotten, and the other somewhat more surprising. He then goes on to investigate various consequences of terrorism. Ultimately, his study leaves most of the truly difficult questions of terrorism unanswered - but given the enormity of the challenge, that is not really surprising.

Krueger opens by demolishing a myth that should have died a long time ago - that terrorism is caused by economic depravity. It turns out that there is no statistical correlation between either poverty or lack of education and terrorism. Krueger points out that we tend to analogize terrorism to property crime, of which the poor are guiltier then the rich. But that is the wrong view - terrorism should be seen as the equivalent of voting - an activity carried out by the educated and well informed, not by the hungry and rather apolitical masses.

In the second chapter, Krueger explores other issues relating to terrorism. His main conclusion is that terrorism is mostly a local issue: long range attacks such as 9/11 and 7/7 are the exception rather than the rule. Terrorism often works across religious lines: the targets of terrorist attacks are overwhelmingly members of another religion. But the particular religion doesn't matter: Islamic terrorists are no more widespread then other terrorists. Perhaps most significantly, Krueger finds that terrorists usually come from countries with poor civil and political liberties.

The final lecture deals with the consequences of terrorism. Krueger presents two views of terror's economic effects: That it has a big, lasting effect, or that it is only a temporary thing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Victor Sidhu on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Terrorists are educated losers with no gripe outlet. That's my take on Krueger's short book. His data and findings are from three lectures he gave at the London School of Economics in 2006.

He documents well several counter-intuitive findings: 1)terrorism is a tactic to get attention, not the "enemy", 2)terrorism is not caused by poverty or lack of education, 3)terrorists are not motivated by their own material gain, 4)terrorism does not much affect an overall economy,5)terrorists are young and male, 6) 95%of attacks are not suicide attacks and are by multiple perpetrators in their own country.

If I follow Krueger's arguments, I might suggest these nostrums to curb terrorism: 1)free up civil and political liberties so the gripers have a non-violent outlet, 2)restrict sensational media reporting to deny terrorists the attention they crave, 3)monitor small dissident groups, 4)heighten security in the morning hours(when most attacks occur), 5)tighten further the availability of weapons of mass destruction.

My research on global megatrends suggests there is a much more encompassing and ominous trend taking place. Terrorists are but minor players. Starting in the 20th century and accelerating into this century, "civilized" people began to accept that it was OK to kill non-combatants. The Nazi bombing raids on London and the holocaust are examples. More sensitive examples are the Allied carpet bombings of Germany or the fire-bombings of Japanese cities. Or the mass killings of non-combatants at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Civilized" people as well as terrorist losers maintain these killings are OK because they get the job done of getting attention and striking terror and making a statement. These killings are supposedly OK because they assist the progress of some aggressive religion or "ism", which includes fascism and communism but also democracy. Are the terrorist losers just mimicking their big brothers?
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