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Rent extraction, revolutionary threat, and coups in non-democracies

Michael Dorsch () and Paul Maarek ()

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2018, vol. 46, issue 4, 1082-1103

Abstract: This paper studies the political turnover process in autocracies due to coup d’états. We present a model in which autocratic rulers are politically constrained both by the elite and by the street. These political constraints are inter-related such that when leaders extract rent from the economy on behalf of the elite they increase the probability of facing a revolt in the street. We suppose that rulers differ in the efficiency with which they extract rents and citizens make inferences about the ruler’s type when idiosyncratic shocks occur. Equilibria are characterized in which elite-led coups serve to reset citizens’ beliefs about the leader’s type and pre-empt revolutions during periods of popular unrest. We then investigate the empirical implications using panel data on popular unrest and coups in sub-Saharan Africa. OLS and IV estimates support the causal mechanism highlighted in our theory. The magnitude of the effect is substantial – a one standard deviation increase in protest intensity increases the probability a coup occurs by a factor of almost three in our baseline IV specification.

Keywords: Political turnover; Coups; Non-democracies; Political agency (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2018.04.002

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:46:y:2018:i:4:p:1082-1103