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Of rulers, rebels, and revenue: State capacity, civil war onset, and primary commodities


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  • Cameron G Thies

    (Department of Political Science, University of Iowa)

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    This article investigates the relationship between civil war onset and state capacity through a focus on the role of primary commodities. This is accomplished by moving the focus of the civil war literature away from an almost exclusive concern with the incentives of rebels to a consideration of both rebels and rulers as revenue seeking predators. This predatory theory approach expects that higher levels of state capacity should deter civil war onset, while civil war onset should reduce state capacity. Further, natural resource rents are expected to enhance state capacity, rather than increase the likelihood of civil war onset. In order to deal with the endogeneity posed by including fiscal measures of state capacity in single equation models of civil war onset, this study employs a simultaneous equations framework. This framework allows us to capture the effects of civil war onset on state capacity and vice versa, as well as the effects of primary commodities on both endogenous covariates. The main findings from the statistical analyses include: state capacity does not affect civil war onset, but civil war onset reduces state capacity; and primary products directly affect only state capacity - they do not directly affect civil war onset, as found in previous contributions to the literature.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Peace Research Institute Oslo in its journal Journal of Peace Research.

    Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 321-332

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:47:y:2010:i:3:p:321-332

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    Keywords: civil war onset; natural resources; predation; primary commodities; resource curse; state capacity;


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    Cited by:
    1. Cingolani, Luciana & Thomsson, Kaj & de Crombrugghe, Denis, 2013. "Minding Weber more than ever? The impacts of State Capacity and Bureaucratic Autonomy on development goals," MERIT Working Papers 052, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    2. Cingolani, Luciana, 2013. "The State of State Capacity: a review of concepts, evidence and measures," MERIT Working Papers 053, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Matthew R DiGiuseppe & Colin M Barry & Richard W Frank, 2012. "Good for the money," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(3), pages 391-405, May.


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