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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 17, 2013

You Shall Not Overkill: Substitution Between Means of Group Removal

Mario Ferrero


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.

Corresponding author: Mario Ferrero, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice (POLIS), University of Eastern Piedmont, Via Cavour 84, 15100 Alessandria, Italy, Fax: +39.0131.283704, E-mail:

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    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.

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    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.


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Published Online: 2013-12-17
Published in Print: 2013-12-01

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