Does the threat of overthrow discipline the elites? Evidence from a laboratory experiment

MPI Collective Goods Discussion Paper, No. 2020/27

The Journal of Legal Studies, forthcoming

39 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2020 Last revised: 22 Feb 2022

See all articles by Konstantin Chatziathanasiou

Konstantin Chatziathanasiou

Institute for International and Comparative Public Law, University of Münster; Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Svenja Hippel

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Michael J. Kurschilgen

Technical University Munich; Max Planck Institute for Collective Goods

Date Written: February 2022

Abstract

The threat of revolution disciplines the elites, inducing them to strategically share some of their wealth in order to prevent social unrest. This behavioral conjecture is prominently used to explain franchise extension and welfare state expansion. We test this conjecture in a controlled laboratory experiment. We model a society whose members can produce wealth by coordinating conflicting interests. Coordination is facilitated through a status-ranking. Compliance with the ranking yields an efficient yet inequitable payoff distribution. Between treatments, we vary (a) whether overthrows – which reset the status-ranking via collective disobedience – are possible or not, and (b) whether voluntary redistributive transfers – which high-status players can use to appease low-status players – are available or not. In contrast to established thinking, we find that, on average, the threat of being overthrown does not lead to more wealth-sharing as high-status players fail to provide sufficient redistribution to prevent overthrows.

Keywords: redistribution, franchise extension, revolution, elite behavior, coordination, battle of the sexes, experiment

JEL Classification: C72, C92, D74, H23, P48

Suggested Citation

Chatziathanasiou, Konstantin and Hippel, Svenja and Kurschilgen, Michael J., Does the threat of overthrow discipline the elites? Evidence from a laboratory experiment (February 2022). MPI Collective Goods Discussion Paper, No. 2020/27, The Journal of Legal Studies, forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3734217 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3734217

Konstantin Chatziathanasiou

Institute for International and Comparative Public Law, University of Münster ( email )

Universitätsstraße 14-16
Münster, 48143
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://go.wwu.de/fjq54

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

Svenja Hippel (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
Bonn, 53113
Germany

Michael J. Kurschilgen

Technical University Munich ( email )

Arcisstr. 21
München, 80333
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.mecon.wi.tum.de/index.php?id=28

Max Planck Institute for Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.coll.mpg.de/team/page/michael_kurschilgen

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
62
Abstract Views
481
rank
500,443
PlumX Metrics