Making Autocracy Work

76 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008

See all articles by Timothy J. Besley

Timothy J. Besley

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Masayuki Kudamatsu

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2007

Abstract

One of the key goals of political economy is to understand how institutional arrangements shape policy outcomes. This paper studies a comparatively neglected aspect of this - the forces that shape heterogeneous performance of autocracies. The paper develops a simple theoretical model of accountability in the absence of regularized elections. Leadership turnover is managed by a selectorate - a group of individuals on whom the leader depends to hold onto power. Good policy is institutionalized when the selectorate removes poorly performing leaders from office. This requires that the selectorate's hold on power is not too dependent on a specific leader being in office. The paper looks empirically at spells of autocracy to establish cases where it has been successful according to various objective criteria. We use these case studies to identify the selectorate in specific instances of successful autocracy. We also show that, consistent with the theory, leadership turnover in successful autocracies is higher than in unsuccessful autocracies. Finally, we show by exploiting leadership deaths from natural causes that successful autocracies appear to have found ways for selectorates to nominate successors without losing power - a feature which is also consistent with the theoretical approach.

JEL Classification: P16, P26

Suggested Citation

Besley, Timothy J. and Kudamatsu, Masayuki, Making Autocracy Work (May 2007). , Vol. , pp. -, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1127017

Timothy J. Besley (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Masayuki Kudamatsu

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) ( email )

Stockholm, SE-10691
Sweden

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