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Protests in The ME and Game Theory

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  1. Swiss Global Economics Protestsin The ME and Game Theory March 16, 2011

  2. Violent Protests and Game Theory • Puzzle • Many people protest, but few protest violently • Violent protests are almost always costly • The fact that some people enjoy violence does not explain the whole story • Game Theoretic Solution • Model 1: Violence as a Signal • Model 2: Screening • Model 3: Gambling for Salvation

  3. Signaling: Intuition • When institution is not sure about protesters’ commitment, violent protest may serve as a signal to convey their willingness to fight for their cause • Institutions do not want to give in, but will do so if it expects that protesters are committed • Examples: Egypt, Yemen

  4. 1-p P U C (0,0) (0,0) ighl A (0,-50) A (800,-50) F A F F F A (1000,-50) (200,-50) (-40,-50) (-40,-50) (0,-50) (-50,-100) (100,-50) (10,-25) (500,-100) (0,-20) (500,-1000) (-50,-100)

  5. Separating Equilibrium • In this game there is a separating equilibrium where • C types always choose to protest violently • Utypes always choose to protest peacefully • The government • will give in after violent protest and not after peaceful protest • believes that all low types protest peacefully, and all high types protest violently

  6. Implications • Communication fails (e.g. no democracy) • Costs/Benefits • Low costs of violence (e.g. weak legal system) • High expected benefits for the high types E.g. if the institution is unstable, likely to give in or if the costs of violence are high for the institution • “U shaped” relation between violence and repression (Francisco, (1996), Moore, (1998), Rasler, (1996)) • Institution has an incentive to avoid precedents

  7. The signaling model is useful, but many violent protests start peacefully • Still an information asymmetry problem: • The government doesn’t know the type of protesters: “committed” or “not committed.” • Before engaging in bargaining with the protesters, the government would like to know if it has the “bargaining power.” • The government uses its police force as a screening mechanism…

  8. Screening Model of Violent Protests • Players: Protesters and Government • Types: Committed and Uncommitted protesters. • Actions: Same negotiation approach for all groups. Bargaining “ex-ante” Gov’t has bargaining power. Gov’t Go away if not committed Rioters Send the Police Gov’t has to give in to the demands. Respond with violence if committed

  9. Egyptian anti-government protesters clash with riot police

  10. Violent Protest to Raise Awareness • Violence is a cheap way to get attention • But it is not necessarily good attention • A risky gamble for raising awareness about your cause Yemen Lybia

  11. Why Would Groups Take a Risky Gamble? • Gambling For Salvation: When your back is against the wall, downside risks don’t matter.

  12. NONVIOLENT PROTEST Favorable Attention VIOLENT PROTEST Where you are now Where you need to be Where you need to be Favorable Attention

  13. Common Theme? Violence provides information