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The Monopoly Of Violence: Evidence From Colombia

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • James A. Robinson
  • Rafael J. Santos

Many states in Latin America, Africa and Asia lack the monopoly of violence, identified by Max Weber as the foundation of the state, and thus the capacity to govern effectively. In this paper we develop a new perspective on the establishment of the monopoly of violence and the formation of the state. We build a model to explain the incentive of central states to eliminate non-state armed actors (paramilitaries) in a democracy. The model is premised on the idea that paramilitaries may choose to and can influence elections. Since paramilitaries have preferences over policies, this reduces the incentives of the politicians they favor to eliminate them. The model also shows that while in non-paramilitary areas policies are targeted at citizens, in paramilitary controlled areas they are targeted at paramilitaries. We then investigate the predictions of our model using data from Colombia between 1991 and 2006. We first present regression and case study evidence supporting our postulate that paramilitary groups can have significant effects on elections for the legislature and the executive. Next, we show that the evidence is also broadly consistent with the implication of the model that paramilitaries tend to persist to the extent that they deliver votes to candidates for the executive whose preferences are close to theirs and that this effect is larger in areas where the Presidential candidate would have otherwise not done as well. These results illustrate that, consistent with our model, there appears to be a symbiotic relationship between some executives and paramilitaries. Finally, we use roll-call votes to illustrate a possible 'quid pro quo' between the executive and paramilitaries in Colombia.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1542-4774.2012.01099.x
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Article provided by European Economic Association in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 11 (2013)
Issue (Month): (01)
Pages: 5-44

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Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:11:y:2013:i::p:5-44
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  1. Acemoglu, D. & Ticchi, D. & Vindigni, A., 2006. "Emergence and Persistence of Inefficient States," Papers 12-02-2006, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  2. Isaías N. Chaves & Leopoldo Fergusson & James A. Robinson, 2009. "He Who Counts Elects: Determinants of Fraud in the 1922 Colombian Presidential Election," NBER Working Papers 15127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jorge Restrepo & Michael Spagat & Juan Vargas, 2004. "The Dynamics of the Columbian Civil Conflict: A New Dataset," Homo Oeconomicus, Institute of SocioEconomics, vol. 21, pages 396-429.
  4. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2007. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," NBER Working Papers 13028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2010. "Persistence of Civil Wars," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 664-676, 04-05.
  6. Fabio Sánchez & María Del Mar Palau, 2006. "Conflict, Decentralisation And Local Governance In Colombia, 1974-2004," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002180, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  7. Assar Lindbeck & Jörgen Weibull, 1987. "Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 273-297, January.
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