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When does war occur for economic reasons? In an anarchic environment, stronger states may fear that their security will be undermined by the economic growth of weaker states and may attempt to constrain it. Weaker states, even if they are rising, may prefer to declare war. The weaker institutional constraints on stronger states are, and the smaller the spheres of influence of weaker states are, the greater are the risks of war. We illustrate our theory by analyzing the economic roots of the Second World War, and we reflect on the general lessons of our argument.