What Causes Ethnic Conflict?

Interesting new study

Economic globalization and liberalization have been blamed for numerous social ills over the last two decades, including a sharp rise in interethnic violence in countries all over the world. Not so, say the results of a study conducted by researchers from McGill University and published in the current issue of the journal International Studies Quarterly.

In fact, according to Dr. Stephen Saideman and his former McGill Master’s student David Steinberg – now pursuing his doctorate at Northwestern University – the more government intervention there is in the local economy, the more likely interethnic violence and rebellion becomes. Conversely, the more economically open a society is, the less likely such violence becomes.

“Our study counters the idea that a liberalized economy is worse for ethnic groups. Minorities are more likely to be on the outside of the political system,” explained Saideman, associate professor and associate director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science, and Canada Research Chair in International Security and Ethnic Conflict. “So, if the government is involved in the economy, minorities are more likely to be affected by the whims of the state than by the whims of the market.”

Utilizing their own original research, along with the Minorities at Risk dataset compiled by their colleagues at the University of Maryland, Steinberg and Saideman’s results show that government intervention in the economy leads to a spiral of political competition among groups to gain control of the state and the economic spoils it distributes.

Food for thought for those who want the government in control of the economy, as the article also points out.

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