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Reddit AMA

Summary:
Hi, I’m Chris Blattman from The University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. My book Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace publishes tomorrow April 19th. ProofI’m an economist and political scientist. I’ve worked in civil wars in East & West Africa, and with gangs in Colombia and Chicago. My book looks at fighting of every kind—from civil conflicts and gang wars to ancient Greece and the World Wars, plus the kinds of invasions we are witnessing now in Ukraine.Why We Fight walks through the psychological and strategic forces of war, especially the ones we tend to overlook. It’s easy to forget that war shouldn’t happen — and that most of the time it doesn’t. There are millions of hostile rivalries around the globe and yet only a fraction erupt into violence. That's

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Hi, I’m Chris Blattman from The University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. My book Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace publishes tomorrow April 19th. Proof

I’m an economist and political scientist. I’ve worked in civil wars in East & West Africa, and with gangs in Colombia and Chicago. My book looks at fighting of every kind—from civil conflicts and gang wars to ancient Greece and the World Wars, plus the kinds of invasions we are witnessing now in Ukraine.

Why We Fight walks through the psychological and strategic forces of war, especially the ones we tend to overlook. It’s easy to forget that war shouldn’t happen — and that most of the time it doesn’t. There are millions of hostile rivalries around the globe and yet only a fraction erupt into violence. That's because war is ruinous.

War is what happens when something keeps rivals from weighing the brutal costs of fighting. The book looks back at decades of social science and shows that there are really just 5 ways this happens:

  1. Unchecked interests. When leaders aren't accountable to their people and ignore the costs, or seek private gains

  2. Intangible incentives. When groups value something ideological or intangible that only war will bring

  3. Misperceptions. When groups misperceive themselves or their enemy

  4. Uncertainty. When their opponent's strength and resolve is uncertain

  5. Commitment problems. When an opponent is expected to grow strong and can't commit not to use that strength in future

I've also worked on poverty alleviation, cash transfers to the poor, sweatshops, and randomized control trials for poverty and violence reduction.

Happy to answer questions on and off the topic of conflict. I a longtime international affairs and development blogger and happy to cover any topic I write about there: academia, development, or career advice for young people.

Ask Me Anything! (I'll be collecting questions this morning then start responding midday Central Time.)

Edit: Thank you all, I had a great time answering all your questions. Thanks for participating and you can always ask me anything about econ, politics (or ducks and minecraft) on Twitter. You can also subscribe to blog posts by email. I’ll do my best to come back to some of the unanswered questions if I can later on

Chris Blattman
Political economist studying conflict, crime, and poverty, and @UChicago Professor @HarrisPolicy and @PearsonInst. I blog at http://chrisblattman.com

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