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Ron Smith 'Calculating the Costs of Conflict'

When Apr 26, 2017
from 06:00 PM to 07:30 PM
Where Ramsden Room, St Catharine's College
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Date: Wednesday 26 April 2017 
Time: 18:00 -19:30
Speaker: Ron Smith
Talk Title: 'Calculating the Costs of Conflict’
LocationRamsden Room, St Catharine's College

The seminar series is supported by the Cambridge Journal of Economics and the Economics and Policy Group at the Judge Business School.

An audio recording of the presentation:


Ron Smith is Professor of Applied Economics at Birkbeck, University of London, where he teaches statistics and econometrics. Prior to joining Birkbeck in 1976, he taught at Cambridge. He has also been visiting professor at London Business School and the University of Colorado. He has written 6 books, edited another 3 and published over 200 papers mainly in applied econometrics and defence economics. His book Military Economics: the interaction of power and money (Palgrave 2009) was shortlisted for the 2010 Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature. He has acted as a consultant to a range of bodies including Frontier Economics and the UK National Audit Office on defence projects. He is an Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute and regularly lectures at the UK Defence Academy. He was awarded the 2011 Lewis Fry Richardson lifetime achievement award for contributions to the scientific study of militarised conflict by the European Consortium of Political Research.

Talk Overview:
Conflict has a major influence on economic development and there is a large literature on the economic costs of military conflict. This presentation uses four questions to structure a discussion of the calculation of conflict costs. The first concerns the purpose of the calculation: why is it being done? The second concerns the counterfactual: what comparison is being made? The third concerns the data: where do the numbers come from? The fourth concerns aggregation and valuation: how are the elements of costs (over outcomes, time and individuals) combined? The literature is often not clear on the answers to these questions, tending to take them for granted. However, the answers are crucial to the calculation and are not merely technical matters of economics and statistics but rest on both the underlying objective of the calculation and fundamental philosophical and ethical judgements. The presentation will draw on “On the heterogenous consequences of civil war” (with Vincenzo Bove and Leandro Elia) Oxford Economic Papers forthcoming and “The Economic Costs of Military Conflict”, Journal of Peace Research, 51(2) March 2014 pp. 245 - 256.