Why do Autocrats Disclose?

38 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by James R. Hollyer

James R. Hollyer

Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota

B. Peter Rosendorff

Independent

James Raymond Vreeland

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Autocratic governments are often thought to hold a strong preference for opacity. Autocracies are, on average, less transparent than democracies and a closed informational environment serves as a mechanism for preventing mass unrest and preserving the autocratic regime. Yet, autocracies vary widely in the extent to which they disclose economic information to their publics. In this paper, we offer an explanation for why some autocrats choose to disclose. The disclosure of information to the public benefits autocratic leaders in two ways: First, it encourages increased foreign investment, boosting the available resources for disbursing rents to the leader and to members of the regime. Second, precisely because a more transparent informational environment facilitates mass unrest, it renders elites more complacent. Members of the elite are less willing to take action to remove their leader as the regime becomes less stable. In essence, transparency enables the leader to use the risk of mass insurrection as a threat to better control members of her regime. We illustrate these arguments with a formal model, and we demonstrate that -- consistent with theoretical expectations -- leaders are more likely to disclose in institutionalized regimes and when leaders are newly appointed. We further demonstrate that transparency predicts FDI inflows.

Suggested Citation

Hollyer, James R. and Rosendorff, B. Peter and Vreeland, James Raymond, Why do Autocrats Disclose? (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2452480

James R. Hollyer (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota ( email )

1414 Social Sciences
267 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jameshollyer.com

B. Peter Rosendorff

Independent

James Raymond Vreeland

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.profvreeland.com

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