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Evolution of Risk and Political Regimes

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The risk of political predation impedes the achievement of economic prosperity. In this study, we analyze how the risk of predation evolves in different political regimes. Formally, we look at the interaction between a government and citizens in which, in each period, the government has an option to predate. Citizens prefer governments that are competent and non‐predatory and strive to replace ones that are not. Regimes differ in the degree to which citizens can succeed in doing so. In pure democracies, citizens can displace incumbent governments; in pure autocracies, they cannot; and in intermediate cases, they can do so in probability. After economic downturns, the posterior probability that the government is competent and benevolent declines. According to the model, in intermediate regimes, but not in others, governments can separate by type. One implication, then, is that these regimes are politically and economically more volatile, with higher levels of variation in assessments of political risk and in economic performance. Another is that in such regimes, political leadership can make an economic difference. Empirically, we test our argument by measuring the impact of economic downturns on the perceived risk of political expropriation in different regime types, using as instruments the incidence of natural disasters and unexpected terms of trade shocks.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2012


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