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 Economics of Violence Book Reviews 

Russ Roberts, President of Shalem College in Jerusalem and the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution

"[Shiffman emphasizes] the argument that a lot of what we're calling terrorists, or insurgents, or criminals are providing something else that is masked by the things that are costly to us as the non-participants of the terror, the death, the activities. And that the opportunity to affiliate with these groups gives participants a way to truck, barter, and exchange more effectively because you can trust their insiders… I thought that was the most provocative idea in the book."

Steve Clemons, Editor at Large, The Hill

“As advances in behavioral science reveal the complex but animating dynamics of human behavior, all those forces that make us fear, or fight, or give us courage, or move us to some action, nefarious states and organizations are learning how to manipulate people and become drivers of violence. In his illuminating new book, national security veteran Gary M. Shiffman takes us to the edge of understanding the nexus between behavior and organized violence. This is a must read not only for leaders in the defense and security sector, but all leaders who want to better understand the opportunities and the dangers of manipulating human action.”

Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Prior to CNAS, he was foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain. 

“Conventional wisdom often views sub-state violence as an irrational expression of religious, tribal or ethnic identity. In his must-read book, Gary M. Shiffman offers a powerful counter, demonstrating that understanding organized violence requires analyzing individual decision-making - and the available incentives and choices. Shiffman combines his own rich experience with deep economic analysis and case studies that range from Pablo Escobar to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and, in so doing, has written a definitive volume on the insights behavioral science offers to national security policymakers.”

Juan Zarate, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combatting Terrorism (2005-2009)

“Gary Shiffman has always been a clarion voice in understanding the importance of behavioral science and economics in national security -- never more so than in this work.  In this book, Shiffman has provided a seminal study of how economic dynamics and individual decisions affect the manifestations of violence and the evolution of terrorist, militant, and criminal movements in a changing global landscape.  By using an economic lens, he breaks down the orthodoxy between traditional disciplines and rigid categories of identity to understand sources of violence and how non-state actors emerge, adapt, and compete.  By examining the cases of Pablo Escobar, Joseph Kony, and Osama bin Laden in this way, he is able to explain how each have acted as “entrepreneurs” using force and forms of coercion to capture markets, each in his own way.  This should become required reading for those seeking to understand how individual decisions drive sub-state groups and violence and how we might use these insights to counter this violence and fight like entrepreneurs.”

Bruce Hoffman, Professor, Georgetown University, author of “Inside Terrorism,” “Anonymous Soldiers,” and editor-in-chief of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism.

“The Economics of Organized Violence is a pathbreaking work that argues how a more rigorous understanding of human behavior can be harnessed to better counter illicit violence. Drawing on his formidable intellect and experiences in the military, as a Senate staffer, a homeland security executive, entrepreneur, and security studies scholar, Shiffman makes a powerful case for this unique approach to strengthening U.S. national security."

Senator Connie Mack

"Gary M. Shiffman uses the science of Economics as a tool for understanding violent human behavior, and he shows us how better to understand those who would harm us. Gary brings provocative, innovative, and exciting ideas to those seeking knowledge, clarity and peace of mind in the promotion of freedom and security. The Economics of Violence is an exciting new book from an established and important voice in national security."

Prince Turki al Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Former Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1977 to 2001)

“Professor Shiffman has provided a valuable insight into what terrorism is, who the terrorists are, why they become terrorists, and what to do to face them. While he explains that it is impossible to eradicate it completely, he does provide a formula for mitigating it. . . . In his book, whose reading is easy and enjoyable, the Professor uses several examples of organized violence in the form of groups like the Mafia, the Medellin Cartel, the Lords Liberation Army, Al Qaida, and the so-called Islamic State. He applies what he calls “market place” rules to them and identifies the almost exact conditions that apply to them. He rejects what became the facile analyses that attribute violence to ethnicity, religion, poverty and upbringing. . . . This is a valuable book that should set records straight about stereotypes, identity, politics, and misleading assumptions. I have been disabused of some of my assumptions and the reader will find the recipe for combating violent groups in the last chapter.

Sharon Weinberger, Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and author of The Imagineers of War: The Untold History of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World

“Why do people fight? It's one of the fundamental questions faced by national security professionals and academic researchers. Gary Shiffman's compelling book places the behavioral and social sciences precisely where they should be: at the center of discussion around questions of war and violence. His intriguing study examines the complex human factors that contribute to modern conflict, and will be a valuable resource for those seeking to prevent it.”

Eli Berman, co-author Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict

“Readable and ambitious, the Economics of Organized Violence uses colorful examples to sketch a common approach to studying organized crime, insurgency and terrorism. Professor Shiffman then draws on his own experience to explain how those insights can inform combatting all three. Highly recommended for practitioners, scholars and anyone interested in new thinking on how these threats can be contained.”

Jacob Shapiro, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University 

“Understanding political violence requires turning away from simplistic labels — `ethno-nationalist’, `narco-terrorist’,`religious radical’ — towards the scientifically grounded concepts of scarcity, markets, and firms. Shiffman’s enlightening and accessible prose demystifies today’s national security threats with precise logic, careful case studies, and wide-ranging pop culture references. A brilliant ground-breaking book that every national security professional should read.”

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