Non-state actors with extreme agendas try to influence state actors.  This class overviews a potpourri of models that explore why a player might join a non state organization, the logic of non state actor strategy and the costs and benefits of torture.

Iannaccone has a classic paper on religious sects and their purpose and strategy.  It has been applied to terrorism by Eli Berman.  Such organizations provide public goods (healthcare, childcare etc) which are non-rival and excludable.  They are club goods.  And individual who joins such an organization is tempted to free-ride and and use his labor on privately productive secular activities.    A religious sect might then prohibit secular activities and will require sect members to wear some kind of uniform to make monitoring easier. Also, a sect would like to admit members who have bad outside options to minimize the free-rider problem.  Requiring a sacrifice, a costly signal, can help to identify the ideal member.

There are many theories for the logic of non state actor strategy.  The simplest is that terrorists seek to impose large costs on some “occupier” and drive them out.  Another is the opposite: terrorists seek to inflame a perceived enemy (a secondary audience). This in turn influences a primary audience whose support is necessary to achieve the non state actor’s ends.  This is in effect a three player game where the extremist inflames a primary audience by changing the behavior of a secondary audience.  This is only worth doing if the primary audience is suggestible.  It might for example signal that the chances for peace are good if only extremism could be ignored.

Finally, what if a potential terrorist is in custody and may have valuable information that can save lives?  He might break under torture.  A cost-benefit analysis, a favorite of moral philosophers, recommends torture if the value of lives saved is large even though torture is morally reprehensible.  But the same cost-benefit calculation subverts the process of torture. If the suspect starts talking, the value of his remaining information outweighs the costs of torture.  If he is silent and probably innocent, it recommends stopping.  But this undercuts the rationale for torture: the terrorist should stay silent as this is his best hope of escape.  But then the value of torture is minimal as information is unlikely to be conceded.

Here are the slides.