Preventive Repression: Two Types of Moral Hazard

38 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2017

See all articles by Tiberiu Dragu

Tiberiu Dragu

New York University

Adam Przeworski

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Date Written: July 1, 2017


Authoritarian regimes maintain their grip on power primarily through preventive repression routinely exercised by specialized security agencies, with the aim of preventing any opposition from organizing and becoming public. We develop a formal model to analyze the moral hazard problems inherent in the principal-agent relationship between rulers and their security agents in charge of preventive repression. The model distinguishes two types of moral hazard: "politics," by which the agents (security agencies) can exert political influence to increase their payoff by decreasing the ruler's payoff, and "corruption," by which the agents can increase their payoff by engaging in rent-seeking activities that do not decrease the ruler's payoff. The surprising conclusion is that both the ruler and the security agent are better off when the only moral hazard problem available is politics rather than when the agent can choose between politics and corruption. We also show that the equilibrium probability of regime survival is higher when politics is the only moral hazard available to the agent. These findings lead to our central conclusion that opportunities for corruption undermine authoritarian regimes by distorting the incentives of the security agencies tasked with preventing domestic opposition.

Keywords: Moral Hazard, Authoritarian Regimes, Corruption, Repression

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Dragu, Tiberiu and Przeworski, Adam, Preventive Repression: Two Types of Moral Hazard (July 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Tiberiu Dragu (Contact Author)

New York University ( email )

19 West 4th Street
Office Room Number 220
New York, NY 10012
United States
2129988513 (Phone)


Adam Przeworski

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States
(212) 998-3707 (Phone)
(212) 995-4184 (Fax)


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