The lone wolf terrorist: sprees of violence

Peter J Phillips 1
  • 1 School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, 4350. Telephone: 617 46315490


The purpose of this paper is to apply economic analysis to the opportunities and choices of single individual ‘lone wolf’ terrorists whose attacks are characterised by ‘sprees’ of violence, usually shooting sprees in public places, that last only for a relatively short period of time. The spree lone wolf also emerges suddenly. Having previously allocated no resources to terrorism, he suddenly and all at once allocates all of his resources, including time, to terrorism. The first step to providing guidance to governments and their law enforcement agencies is to encompass some important elements of the spree lone wolf’s opportunities and choices within an economic analytical framework. The first steps towards this are undertaken in this paper by exploring the opportunities and choices of the spree lone wolf from a risk-reward perspective and a treatment of the spree lone wolf as an individual who, while attempting to maximise his expected utility, shuns the risk-reduction benefits of ‘time diversification’ and suddenly plunges all of his resources into terrorism within a single time period. The analysis shows that such behaviour can be explained within an economic model of choice and clears the way for further theoretical analysis and empirical analysis.

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The main objectives of Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy are to further research in Peace Science and Peace Economics, to expose the scholarly community to innovative peace-related research, to disseminate the study of peace economics to a wider audience.