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The Economics of Violence

Given the brutal conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere that are constantly in the news, many people would probably say that war is the largest source of violence in the world. But that turns out to be spectacularly wrong.

COPENHAGEN – What is the biggest source of violence in our world? With the brutal conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere constantly in the news, many people would probably say war. But that turns out to be spectacularly wrong.

Getting it right matters if we are to find cost-effective solutions to this and other global problems. Obviously, everyone would like to stop wars and violence, just as we would like to end poverty, hunger, and global warming, while providing education to all. But, given limited resources, the international community can only do so much. We have to prioritize, which is what an economic analysis of costs and benefits can do.

The international community is working on new development goals for the next 15 years, and the Copenhagen Consensus has asked some of the world’s leading economists to give their assessment of the smartest targets they can choose. Is reducing violence a goal worthy of resources that would otherwise be spent on, say, reducing hunger? And, if so, which forms of violence should be targeted?

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