The Killing Game: A Theory of Non-Democratic Succession
14 Pages Posted: 4 May 2005 Last revised: 27 Jan 2019
Date Written: May 1, 2015
The winner of a battle for a throne can either execute or spare the loser; if the loser is spared, he contends the throne in the next period. Executing the losing contender gives the winner an additional quiet period, but then his life is at risk if he loses to some future contender who might be, in equilibrium, too frightened to spare him. The trade-off is analyzed within a dynamic complete information game, with, potentially, an infinite number of long-term players. In an equilibrium, decisions to execute predecessors are history-dependent. With a dynastic rule in place, incentives to kill the predecessor are much higher than in non-hereditary dictatorships. The historical part of our analytic narrative contains a detailed analysis of two types of non-democratic succession: hereditary rule of the Osmanli dynasty in the Ottoman Empire in 1281-1922, and non-hereditary military dictatorships in Venezuela in 1830-1964.
Keywords: Positive political theory, succession, dictatorship
JEL Classification: D72, C73, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation