Autocrats and the Environment or it's Easy Being Green

28 Pages Posted: 13 May 2002

See all articles by Jonathan Klick

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Erasmus School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: May 2002


It is generally assumed that autocrats set low environmental standards. The rationale for this is straightforward. High environmental standards raise the cost of production in society, lowering national income. Because the autocrat expropriates a large fraction of national income, he faces a disincentive to protect the environment. However, this argument misses an important consideration of the autocrat. He may be willing to sacrifice some income in order to extend his rule. High environmental standards represent one tool the autocrat could use to placate his people without providing them with any revolutionary resources. This paper presents a model in which the autocrat explicitly recognizes the endogeneity of his tenure length when he chooses an environmental standard, leading to high environmental standards relative to more democratic regimes. The paper presents empirical evidence in support of this implication.

Keywords: Environment, Dictator, Autocracy, Bandit

JEL Classification: D7, H4, H5, Q2

Suggested Citation

Klick, Jonathan, Autocrats and the Environment or it's Easy Being Green (May 2002). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 02-16. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Klick (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
2157463455 (Phone)

Erasmus School of Law ( email )

3000 DR Rotterdam

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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