Resilient Leaders and Institutional Reform: Theory and Evidence

40 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2016

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)

Torsten Persson

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES); London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Marta Reynal-Querol

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences

Date Written: October 2016

Abstract

Strengthening executive constraints is one of the key means of improving political governance. This paper argues that resilient leaders who face a lower probability of being replaced are less likely to reform institutions in the direction of constraining executive power. We test this idea empirically using data on leaders since 1875 using two proxies of resilience: whether a leader survives long enough to die in office, and whether recent natural disasters occur during the leader's tenure. We show that both are associated with lower rates of leader turnover and a lower probability of a transition to strong executive constraints. This effect is robust across a wide range of specifications. Moreover, in line with the theory, it is specific to strengthening executive constraints rather than generalized political reform.

Suggested Citation

Besley, Timothy J. and Persson, Torsten and Reynal-Querol, Marta and Reynal-Querol, Marta, Resilient Leaders and Institutional Reform: Theory and Evidence (October 2016). Economica, Vol. 83, Issue 332, pp. 584-623, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2837132 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ecca.12208

Timothy J. Besley (Contact Author)

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

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Torsten Persson

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

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London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Marta Reynal-Querol

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

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Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

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