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Violence amidst virus: A Game-theoretic exploration of conflict during a pandemic

Munshi, Soumyanetra (2020): Violence amidst virus: A Game-theoretic exploration of conflict during a pandemic.

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Abstract

This paper explores how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting conflicts world-wide. On one hand, confrontation would expose both states and violent non-state groups to contamination, potentially causing massive loss of human lives. Moreover, attacks aimed at signalling discontent or making bigger demands, are unlikely to generate media and diplomatic attention at the level it otherwise would have, sans the pandemic. Hence there might be a mitigation in the intensity of conflicts. On the other hand, the capacity of the states to retaliate will, to a large extent, be compromised, since huge financial and human resources will have to be dedicated to fighting the widespread health and economic effects of the pandemic. Hence the belligerent groups may have greater incentive to launch attacks. This paper attempts to game-theoretically study these various issues and incentives facing the conflicting parties, under the threat of COVID-19. We consider the simple conflict model by Hirshleifer and augment it by introducing possible effects that a raging pandemic might impose on the conflicting parties. Specifically, we introduce positive and negative externalities that a pandemic may impose on an existing conflict and explore parametric conditions under which it is likely to aggravate or mitigate. We find that conflicts are generally likely to lessen but may increase under specific circumstances. We present some narrative evidence on how conflicts seem to have ameliorated in a pandemic-stricken world.

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