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Dictators and Their Viziers: Endogenizing the Loyalty-Competence Trade-Off

Journal of European Economic Association, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 903–930, October 2011

29 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2004 Last revised: 3 Dec 2011

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; NBER

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: October 8, 2009

Abstract

The possibility of treason by a close associate has been a nightmare of most autocrats throughout history. More competent viziers are better able to discriminate among potential plotters, and this makes them more risky subordinates for the ruler. To avoid this, rulers, especially those which are weak and vulnerable, sacrifice the competence of their agents, hiring mediocre but loyal subordinates. Furthermore, any use of incentive schemes by a personalistic dictator is limited by the fact that all punishments are conditional on the dictator's own survival. We endogenize loyalty and competence in a principal-agent game between a dictator and his viziers in both static and dynamic settings. The dynamic model allows us to focus on the succession problem that insecure dictators face.

Keywords: Dictatorship, positive political theory, loyalty and competence, principal-agent, non-democratic succession

JEL Classification: D72, H00, C72, C82

Suggested Citation

Egorov, Georgy and Sonin, Konstantin, Dictators and Their Viziers: Endogenizing the Loyalty-Competence Trade-Off (October 8, 2009). Journal of European Economic Association, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 903–930, October 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=630503 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.630503

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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