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Citizen Restraints on “Leviathan” Government: Transition Politics in Bulgaria

Kenneth Koford

Economic Studies journal, 2000, issue 3, 30-62

Abstract: Standard theories of government in transition countries (Olson, M., Jr., 1995. Why the Transition from Communism Is So Difficult. Eastern Economic Journal 21, 437-462.) regard politicians and bureaucracies as “bandits” who extract the maximum resources from the public. Extraction is limited when the bandit expects to maintain power for a longer period of time and when the public can resist. When “bandits” try to gain wealth quickly and then leave, it is hard for them to work together – they become “disorganized roving bandits”. In the transition, the public begins to act together to restrain the ability of the government to extract rents, changing the constraint faced by “bandits”. The paper uses these principles to analyze the politics of transition in Bulgaria. While some political actors extracted rents for their personal use, others followed traditional authoritarian principles, producing the leader’s idea of the public good – a concept of government as Leviathan. Four episodes of transition policy are considered. In each, the government followed policies that led to its collapse under citizen resistance. Either governments were too “disorganized” to carry out utility-maximizing policies, or they underestimated the willingness of the public to resist their policies.

Date: 2000
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