Religious Extremism: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly

Publication Year
Public Choice

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.

Additional Authors
Laurence R. Iannaccone

Iannaccone, L.R., Berman, E. Religious extremism: The good, the bad, and the deadly. Public Choice 128, 109–129 (2006).

Publication Topic
Publication Type
Academic Journal Article