War Games

On the streets of Chicago, two rival gangs find themselves on the verge of battle. Gang A has possession over a territory—a lucrative drug market—that Gang B is interested in seizing. So will there be violence? And if so, what will it look like?

That’s the sort of scenario that Chicago Harris Prof. Ethan Bueno de Mesquita has set out to better understand in his latest paper. From Chicago gang fights, to Mexican drug cartels, to ISIS’s campaign in the Middle East, he's using game theory to look at the hard economics at the root of factional violence. What he finds points to a whole new way of understanding why groups choose to fight — and it’s throwing a wrench in the conventional wisdom.

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