The Need for Enemies

Leopoldo Fergusson, James A. Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, Juan F. Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We develop a model where some politicians have an edge in undertaking a task and this gives them electoral advantage, creating an incentive to underperform in the task. We test the empirical implications in the context of fighting against insurgents, using Colombian data. The main prediction is that large defeats for the insurgents reduce the probability that these politicians fight them, especially in electorally salient places. We find that after the largest victories against FARC rebels, the government reduced its counterinsurgency efforts, especially in politically important municipalities. Politicians need to keep enemies alive in order to maintain their political advantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1054
Number of pages37
JournalEconomic Journal
Issue number593
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


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