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We examine the relationships between agrarian commodity booms and the incidence of criminality and conflict in the context of Indonesia’s expanding oil palm plantation economy. We theorise that commodity boom violence takes two main forms: low level but organized criminal violence involved in the extortion of “rents” produced by a given commodity extraction and production process (extortion); and violent competition among a range of groups, including mafias, youth gangs, landholders, and commercial producers for control of these rents (competition ). Exploiting geolocated estimates of oil palm plantation expansion and multiple sources of violence data, including a primary survey, consistent with our theory, results show that extortion violence is higher in villages with established oil palm plantations, whereas competition violence is higher in areas undergoing planation expansion and when commodity prices are elevated. Results are robust to instrumentation to deal with the potential endogeneity of plantation expansion.
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