Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships

35 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2005

See all articles by Georgy Egorov

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; NBER

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: December 2004

Abstract

The possibility of treason by a close associate has been a nightmare of most dictators throughout history. Better informed viziers are also better able to discriminate among potential plotters, and this makes them more risky subordinates for the dictator. To avoid this, dictators - especially those which are weak and vulnerable - sacrifice the competence of their agents, hiring mediocre but loyal subordinates. One reason why democracies generally witness more talented people in the government is the dictator's inability to commit to the optimal (less than the capital) punishment for those who unsuccessfully plotted to remove him from power. Furthermore, any use of incentive schemes by a dictator is limited by the fact that rewards are conditional on dictator's own willingness to keep his promises, while punishments are conditional on dictator's own survival. We model a principal-agent game between a dictator and his (probably, few) viziers both in static and dynamic perspectives. The dynamic model allows us to focus on the succession problem the insecure dictators face.

Keywords: Dictatorship, formal political theory, principal agent

JEL Classification: D72, P16

Suggested Citation

Egorov, Georgy and Sonin, Konstantin, Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships (December 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=667902

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 - Harris School of Public Policy ( 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)

London
United Kingdom

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