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The Killing Game: Reputation and Knowledge in Non-Democratic Succession

Georgy Egorov () and Konstantin Sonin ()

No 54, Economics Working Papers from Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science

Abstract: The winner of a battle for a throne can either execute or spare the loser; if the loser is spared, he contends the throne in the next period. Executing the losing contender gives the winner an additional quiet period, but then his life is at risk if he loses to some future contender who might be, in equilibrium, too frightened to spare him. The trade-off is analyzed within a dynamic complete information game, with, potentially, an infinite number of long-term players. In an equilibrium, decisions to execute predecessors are history-dependent. With a dynastic rule in place, incentives to kill the predecessor are much higher than in non-hereditary dictatorships.The historical part of our analytic narrative contains a detailed analysis of two types of nondemocratic succession: hereditary rule of the Osmanli dynasty in the Ottoman Empire in 1281—1922, and non-hereditary military dictatorships in Venezuela in 1830—1964.

Date: 2005-05
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