Harming a favored side: an anomaly with supreme values and good intentions

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Third-party adjudicators, be they governments, or politicians or academics, can take positions regarding who initiated a conflict, who is to blame for harm or damage, and who has violated international law. Decisions need not always be objective. There can be bias. I consider the anomaly of biased adjudicators providing incentives for harm to their favored side. The anomaly arises in real-life circumstances. The puzzle is why adjudicators with good intentions cooperate in bringing harm to the civilian population of the side with which they sympathize. Anomalies are usually addressed in a context of behavioral economics. I consider both behavioral and rational explanations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-285
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number3-4
Early online date29 Nov 2019
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Helpful comments were received from anonymous reviewers. I also thank James Cassing, Raul Caruso, Melanie Garson, Carsten Hefeker, Jan Fałkowski, Colin Jennings, Moshe Justman, Peter Nannestad, Niklas Potrafke, Daniel Schiffman, Heinrich Ursprung, Warren Young, and participants at the 28th Silvaplana workshop in political economy in Pontresina in July 2019. Informative interchanges are acknowledged with Charles Blankart on who has the right to self-defense and with Andreas Haufler on proportionality. For sharing their perspectives, I also thank Arzu Kibris and other participants at the 17th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference in June 2017 at the University of Antwerp.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Hamas
  • Israel
  • Politics of identity
  • Post-modernism
  • Prejudice
  • Selective-perception bias
  • Supreme values
  • Third-party intervention


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