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Autocratic Survival Strategies: Does Oil Make a Difference?

Phoebe W. Ishak ()

Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, 2019, vol. 25, issue 2, 22

Abstract: This paper examines the behavior of dictators when faced by an imminent threat of being overthrown in oil abundant countries. In the short run, the dictator’s survival strategies is argued to be confined to public spending and repression, whereas the choice of their levels is conditional upon the intensity of the mass threat (i.e. civil protest vs. mass violence) and the size of oil wealth. The empirical results indicate a possibility of mixing between spending and repression, and that oil wealth allows for differences in their employed levels in face of the same threat. Using a dataset of authoritarian regimes in 88 countries from 1981 to 2006, I found that mass violence is handled through increasing both spending and repression, whereas civil protest is only met by repression. Furthermore, greater oil wealth is found to provide a wider fiscal space to relatively increase spending, but only at low and intermediate levels of mass threats. As the threats intensify, the effect of oil wealth dissipates and oil wealth dictatorships behave the same as their non-oil wealth counterparts.

Keywords: autocratic survival; oil rents; public spending; repression (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H50 P48 Q34 D74 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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