Caught in the crossfire "Innocent bystanders" as optimal targets of economic sanctions

S Major, AJ McGann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Current sanctions orthodoxy argues that groups' ability to set policy depends on their total budget. According to such a perspective, successful sanctions must target the unfriendly within the target countries while shielding "innocent bystanders" from harm. The authors argue that the focus on groups' aggregate budget constraint and the war-of-attrition view of policy formation misconceives of how policies are determined. The most effective groups to sanction will be those whose spending has the greatest marginal effect on policy. The authors show that this will often be the very innocent bystanders that prevailing theories have argued must be protected. Although this conclusion is conditional on their level of institutional empowerment and their having sufficient resources to make an impact on policy if properly motivated, when these initial conditions are met, a sanctions design can be specified with a high degree of prospective utility for sender states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-359
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • interest group lobbying
  • south africa
  • interest group politics
  • public choice
  • economic sanctions
  • innocent bystanders
  • optimal targets


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