Public Choice

, Volume 162, Issue 3–4, pp 381–404 | Cite as

Macro shocks and costly political action in non-democracies

  • Michael T. Dorsch
  • Karl Dunz
  • Paul Maarek


This paper presents a theory of political instability in autocracies where the disenfranchised express their political preferences for a leadership replacement through costly political action. We focus on the business regulatory environment as an arena for autocratic rent-creation, as a source of information asymmetry between the autocrat and the disenfranchised, and as a potential political grievance for the disenfranchised. Within this context, we revisit the role of macro shocks as a catalyst for political instability and propose a novel informational channel through which macro shocks may trigger costly political action when the autocrat chooses to create rents through regulation that deteriorates the mean macroeconomic outcome. We then provide an empirical investigation of our theoretical hypotheses employing fixed-effects panel regressions and an instrumental variable strategy over a sample of non-democratic countries. Consistent with our theoretical hypotheses, we demonstrate that adverse economic shocks increase the probability of mass protest episodes, but that the magnitude of the effect depends on the extent to which business regulation is market-distorting.


Asymmetric information Macro shocks Mass protest  Political instability Political turnover Regulation  Rent-seeking 

JEL codes:

D72 D74 D82 E32 O43 P48 



An appendix of additional empirical tables is available from the corresponding author’s website ( This paper has benefited from the insightful comments of seminar participants at the Centre d’Économie Industrielle of MINES ParisTech, Humboldt University Berlin, CSAE at University of Oxford, the Public Choice Society at New Orleans, Central European University Budapest, the European Public Choice Society at ETH Zurich, the European Political Science Association in Barcelona, the DIAL Development Conference at Université Paris-Dauphine, the Silvaplana Political Economy workshop, and Koç University Istanbul. We are particularly thankful for the thoughtful comments of Toke Aidt, Sumru Altug, Thilo Bodenstein, Benjamin Ho, Randall Holcombe, Richard Jong-A-Pin, an anonymous referee, and the editors in charge of our submission, Pete Leeson and William Shughart II. All errors, of course, remain our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public PolicyCentral European UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.New OrleansUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversité de Cergy-PontoiseCergy-Pontoise CedexFrance

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