, Volume 159, Issue 1-2, pp 27-52
Date: 31 Aug 2012

On revolt and endogenous economic policy in autocratic regimes

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Numerous empirical studies have investigated the direction of causality between democracy and economic growth (as well as the level of income per capita), but this empirical work has been paralleled by relatively few theoretical models that endogenize the institutional structure of the regime. Moreover, the different types of autocratic regimes have received relatively little attention. This paper develops a game-theoretic model of endogenous economic policy in autocratic regimes facing a revolt or an insurgency. In this model, there are three players: the regime, the rebels, and the masses. There are three stages in the game. In the first stage, the regime determines the level of infrastructure and the tax rate. In the second stage, the masses allocate their time between production and helping the rebels. In the third stage, the regime and the rebels simultaneously choose their fighting effort levels in a contest, in which the probability of survival of the regime is determined. It is found that autocratic regimes facing a revolt endogenously sort themselves into “tinpot” regimes that maximize their consumption at the cost of their survival, and (weak and strong) “totalitarian” regimes that maximize their probability of survival at the expense of their consumption. Empirical implications of the model are derived, and the relevance of the model to public policy is discussed.