DRI Working Paper No. 43
By Debraj Ray, NYU
Remarks on the Initiation of Costly Conflict
This paper studies costly conflict in a world of complete information, in which society can commit to divisible transfers among all potentially warring groups. The difficulty in preventing conflict arises from the possibility that there may be several conflictual divisions of society, each based on a different marker, such as class, geography, religion, or ethnicity. It is shown that this diversity of societal markers is particularly conducive to social instability when potential conflict is over private, divisible resources. In contrast, when conflict is over public goods, such diversity promotes social stability.