This note places mass killing in a continuum of actions that a ruling power can take to remove an unwanted group from a society; that is, it views extermination as a means to an end, and it assumes that rulers are rational and will choose the combination of means that can achieve their goal at the minimum cost to themselves. The means are assimilation into the general society, physical removal from view (through either deportation within the country or exile from the country), and extermination. The note develops a simple model of input choice geared to cost minimization and then finds encouraging support from the historical evidence on communist regimes.
If the ruler is constrained by a given total budget, his problem becomes one of cost-constrained quantity maximization – the dual of the problem of quantity-constrained cost minimization discussed in the text. If the shapes of the isocost and isoquant curves are as posited above, again an interior solution will generally be optimal.
Such a prescription can be seen as a realist, if pessimistic, effort at minimizing violence, very much in the spirit of Kaufmann’s (1998) argument for population transfer and partition as tools to end ethnic civil wars in cases of extreme hostility between groups.
An earlier draft of this note was presented at the 13th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference (Catholic University of Milan, June 24–26, 2013), whose participants provided interesting discussion. The author is indebted to the editor and two referees of this Journal for very helpful suggestions.
Desbarats, J., (1990), Repression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Executions and Population Relocation, in Moore J.N., (ed.), The Vietnam Debate. A Fresh Look at the Arguments, University Press of America, New York, pp. 193–201. Search in Google Scholar
Ellman, M., (2002), Soviet Repression Statistics: Some Comments, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 54, no. 7, pp. 1151–1172. Search in Google Scholar
Esteban, J., Morelli, M., Rohner, D., (2010), Strategic Mass Killings, Working Paper no. 459, Graduate School of Economics, Barcelona. Search in Google Scholar
Ferrero, M., (2013), Extermination as a Substitute for Assimilation or Deportation: An Economic Approach, Working Paper no. 206, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice (POLIS), University of Eastern Piedmont. Search in Google Scholar
Kaufmann, C.D., (1998), When All Else Fails: Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century, International Security, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 120–156. Search in Google Scholar
Rummel, R.J., (1997), Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900, Transaction Publishers, Rutgers University. Retrieved from: www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE5.HTM. Search in Google Scholar
Verpoorten, M., (2012), Leave None to Claim the Land: A Malthusian Catastrophe in Rwanda?, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 547–563. Search in Google Scholar
Wheatcroft, S., (1996), The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930–1945, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 48, no. 8, pp. 1319–1353. Search in Google Scholar
©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston