Group Grievances & Civil War: Some Theory and Empirics on Competing Mechanisms, 1990-2017
Recent scholarship forcefully claims that group grievances due to political exclusion and discrimination drive civil wars. This perspective argues that socio-psychological factors allow groups to overcome collective action problems. We argue that the grievance perspective (over)focuses on the ends and not means, which are critical to explain how groups survive state repression, allowing contention to become civil wars. We suggest that inclusive economic governance reduces investment in state-evading infrastructures for quotidian economic reasons. Our analyses show that group-grievance-generating political factors are poorer predictors of civil war compared with economic freedoms measured as free-market friendly policies and the private ownership of economies. These results are robust to several alternative models, data, and estimating method. Theory that ignores the means explain the main causes of costly violence only partially or mistake symptom for cause. Freedom and inclusiveness are intrinsically valuable and hard to obtain when violence is waged for narrower ends.