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The Logic of Authoritarian Bargains

by Anders Olofsgård (with R. Desai and T. Yousef), published in the Journal of Economics & Politics

Dictatorships do not survive by repression alone. Rather, dictatorial rule is often explained as an ― authoritarian bargain by which citizens relinquish political rights for economic security. The applicability of the authoritarian bargain to decision-making in non-democratic states, however, has not been thoroughly examined. We conceptualize this bargain as a simple game between a representative citizen and an autocrat who faces the threat of insurrection, and where economic transfers and political influence are simultaneously determined. Our model yields precise implications for the empirical patterns that are expected to exist. Tests of a system of equations with panel data comprising 80 non-democratic states between 1975 and 1999 confirm the predictions of the authoritarian-bargain thesis, with some variation across different categories of dictatorship.

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