Public Choice

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 63-84

First online:

The Constitutional Economics of Autocratic Succession

  • Peter Kurrild-KlitgaardAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Aarhus

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The paper extends and empirically tests GordonTullock's public choice theory of the nature of autocracy. A simple model of the relationship between constitutional rules governing succession in autocratic regimes and the occurrence of coups against autocrats is sketched. The model is applied to a case study of coups against monarchs in Denmark in the period ca. 935–1849. A clear connection is found between the specific constitutional rules governing succession and the frequency of coups. Specifically, the introduction of automatic hereditary succession inan autocracy provides stability and limits the number of coups conducted by contenders.