Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Economics Of Terrorism, And Why Islamic State Will Eventually Crumble

A recent poll revealed that just over 70% of people in the UK think that immigration increases the likelihood of terrorism. They are right, but not in any way that should cast aspersions over the merits of immigration, because immigration increases the likelihood of terrorism only in the same way that having roads increases the likelihood of speeding. The cause of an increased likelihood of terrorism is down to something else.

Terrorism, like fruit, vegetables, cars and holidays has a supply and demand curve. Consider terrorism as a good with a demand curve - by which I mean that terrorism is an activity that currently some people wish to engage in to achieve a religious or political goal. The price of engaging in terrorism is paid in the form of the risk of death, injury or imprisonment.

Similarly, there is a demand curve for burglary, speeding, and fraud, and the price paid to do these things comes in the cost of a fine or a prison sentence. To put it in formal terms, we could in theory draw a demand curve for all of these crimes and then plot the likelihood of punishment on the vertical axis, and the number of crimes committed for each on the horizontal axis.

Ascertaining the steepness of the demand curve is like asking whether an increase in the probability of punishment will amount to reduced instances in crimes committed. Measuring the slope of the demand curve for, say, burglary is equivalent to measuring the deterrent effect of the punishment for burglary. Crimes like burglary, which are often committed to feed a drug habit, are likely to have steep demand curves because drug demand is usually fairly inelastic for an addict, which is why recidivism rates for drug addicts are so high. With speeding, on the other hand, the demand curve seems to be pretty flat. In other words, the single appearance of a speeding sign or a camera leads to a huge decrease in the incidences of speeding.

Now when it comes to terrorism and the sort of people who are likely to commit terrorist acts in the name of ISIS, the demand curve is about as far from flat as it is possible to be, because most of the causes with which the terrorists identify are causes bigger than the crime deterrents (including even death). In other words, many terrorists are perfectly willing to die for their cause, believing that in doing so they are offering a noble service to Allah, meaning in most cases there is no deterrent to flatten down the demand curve for terrorism.

If terrorists have no care for the consequences in terms of punishment for the crime, and if Islamic State continues with the same momentum in recruiting willing participants to fight for their cause, then terrorism is going to continue to be a problem, and immigration only changes where the incidences of terrorism take place - be it Britain, France, Germany, Holland or Belgium.

Regarding the aims of Islamic terrorism, and the fact that those aims even seem able to subvert the moral compass of the perpetrators, I see no signs of incidences of terrorism decreasing. The wide scope of this evil regime is that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi wants to establish the Caliphate of all Caliphates, unleashing terror everywhere he can, and ruling Islamic State nations under the thrall of their terror-inducing domination.

There is, though, perhaps one fly in the ointment - if only he was a bit more familiar with the works of Plato and Aristotle, or even a bit more cognisant of historical antecedents, he and his fellow Jihadi thugs would see that their aspirations are probably unrealistic in the longer run.

Here's why. A general pattern throughout the history of military or political coups is that even when they are brutal and catastrophic for the citizens, they soon reach a point of relative stability, not least because it's nigh-on impossible to rule a country under continual internal strife. In other words, good conquerors, even Caliphs, totalitarian as they were, still allowed at least a semblance of autonomy and harassment-free administration of people. That's why, even though it is likely that these horrible terrorist incidents will continue to occur, and Islamic thuggery will continue to pop up, the idea of ruling nations consistent with the backward, brutalised, oppressive, freedom denying methods of Islamic State is wholly unrealistic in the long run.