Dictators as Founding Fathers? The Role of Constitutions Under Autocracy
Economics & Politics, Volume 24(3), November 2012
46 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011 Last revised: 12 Dec 2012
Date Written: March 24, 2011
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.
Keywords: Dictatorship, constitutions, political survival, property rights, economic growth, FDI
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