A Kleptocrat's Survival Guide: Autocratic Longevity in the Face of Civil Conflict

41 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Gary Milante

Gary Milante

World Bank - Policy Research Department

Date Written: April 1, 2007


Autocratic regimes are quite often short-lived kleptocracies formed and maintained through force and used to appropriate wealth from subjects. Some of these autocracies collapse after only a year or two of plundering while others manage to survive for 15 or 20 years. This paper asks why some autocratic regimes survive while others fail. A database of political regimes from 1960 to 2003 is introduced and accompanies the paper in an appendix. A model of political survival suggests that autocrats exchange constraints on their executive power for their continued survival. The relationship between payouts from successful rebellion and ease of rebellion determines how willing kleptocrats are to extend the political franchise and protect their power. Results show that extremely oppressive regimes and great expenditures on security are likely to accompany the most difficult environments for defense of the state. The model is used to identify the costs of pervasive political conflict and to decompose the civil peace dividend enjoyed by inclusive democracies that do not suffer from the malady of kleptocratic rule. Finally, the model suggests that slow democratization pushed by the autocratic elites to guarantee their survival, accompanied by stable development, may be the best path toward a democratic future for many fragile states.

Keywords: Economic Theory & Research, Education and Society, Social Conflict and Violence, Services&Transfers to Poor, Post Conflict Reintegration

Suggested Citation

Milante, Gary, A Kleptocrat's Survival Guide: Autocratic Longevity in the Face of Civil Conflict (April 1, 2007). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4186. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=977601

Gary Milante (Contact Author)

World Bank - Policy Research Department ( email )

1818 H Street
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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