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Dictators as Founding Fathers? The Role of Constitutions Under Autocracy


Michael Albertus


University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Victor A. Menaldo


University of Washington - Department of Political Science

March 24, 2011

Economics & Politics, Volume 24(3), November 2012

Abstract:     
This paper advances a theory of why autocratic coalitions adopt constitutions. We argue that autocratic rulers adopt constitutions in the nascent stages of an autocratic coalition taking power, when uncertainty about leader intentions is high. Constitutions can serve to consolidate a new distribution of power, allowing a launching organization (LO) to codify and defend their rights. Autocratic coalitions that adopt constitutions should therefore last longer in power than those that do not. Using new data compiled on constitutions created under autocracy in Latin America from 1950 to 2002, we show that autocratic coalitions who adopt and operate under constitutions extend their survival. This result holds after controlling for the presence of other autocratic institutions, country fixed effects, and after using an instrumental variables strategy to address reverse causation. A case study of Mexico details the mechanism by which this relationship between constitutions and stability occurs.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: Dictatorship, constitutions, political survival, property rights, economic growth, FDI

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Date posted: March 28, 2011 ; Last revised: December 12, 2012

Suggested Citation

Albertus, Michael and Menaldo, Victor A., Dictators as Founding Fathers? The Role of Constitutions Under Autocracy (March 24, 2011). Economics & Politics, Volume 24(3), November 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1794281 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1794281

Contact Information

Michael Albertus
University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
Victor A. Menaldo (Contact Author)
University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )
101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States
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