Public Choice

, Volume 128, Issue 1–2, pp 109–129 | Cite as

Religious extremism: The good, the bad, and the deadly

  • Laurence R. Iannaccone
  • Eli Berman
Original Article


This paper challenges conventional views of violent religious extremism, particularly those that emphasize militant theology. We offer an alternative analysis that helps explain the persistent demand for religion, the different types of religions that naturally arise, and the special attributes of the “sectarian” type. Sects are adept at producing club goods – both spiritual and material. Where governments and economies function poorly, sects often become major suppliers of social services, political action, and coercive force. Their success as providers is much more due to the advantages of their organizational structure than it is to their theology. Religious militancy is most effectively controlled through a combination of policies that raise the direct costs of violence, foster religious competition, improve social services, and encourage private enterprise.


Econoimcs of religion Religious violence Extremism Sectarianism Terrorism Suicide-bombing Rational choice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of California at San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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