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Rational dictators and the killing of innocents: Data from Stalin's archives

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  • Gregory, Paul R.
  • Schröder, Philipp J.H.
  • Sonin, Konstantin

Abstract

We posit a rational choice model of dictatorship to explain the tendency of dictators to repress innocent citizens. This model demonstrates that, when the quality of information about regime enemies is low, a rational dictator will knowingly kill and imprison citizens who are not real enemies. We use the formerly secret Stalin archives to test this proposition against the stylized facts of Stalin's three major repressions.

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  • Gregory, Paul R. & Schröder, Philipp J.H. & Sonin, Konstantin, 2011. "Rational dictators and the killing of innocents: Data from Stalin's archives," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 34-42, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:39:y:2011:i:1:p:34-42
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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Harrison, 2016. "Fact and Fantasy in Soviet Records:The Documentation of Soviet Party and Secret Police Investigations as Historical Evidence," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 263, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Nikolova, Milena & Popova, Olga & Otrachshenko, Vladimir, 2022. "Stalin and the origins of mistrust," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 208(C).
    3. Miller, Marcus & Smith, Jennifer C., 2015. "In the shadow of the Gulag: Worker discipline under Stalin," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 531-548.
    4. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2013. "An Epidemic Model of Violence and Public Support in Civil War," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 30(1), pages 24-52, February.
    5. Anderson, R. Warren & Johnson, Noel D & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "From the Persecuting to the Protective State? Jewish Expulsions and Weather Shocks from 1100 to 1800," MPRA Paper 44228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Markevich, Andrei, 2007. "The Dictator’s Dilemma : to Punish or to Assist? Plan Failures and Interventions under Stalin," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 816, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    7. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2015. "Political Economy in a Changing World," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(5), pages 1038-1086.
    8. Mark Harrison, 2013. "Secrecy, Fear and Transaction Costs: The Business of Soviet Forced Labour in the Early Cold War," Europe-Asia Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 65(6), pages 1112-1135.
    9. Gehlbach, Scott & Keefer, Philip, 2011. "Investment without democracy: Ruling-party institutionalization and credible commitment in autocracies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 123-139, June.
    10. Xue, Melanie Meng & Koyama, Mark, 2018. "Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China," MPRA Paper 84249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Ore Koren & Bumba Mukherjee, 2019. "Violent Repression as a Commitment Problem: Urbanization, Food Shortages, and Civilian Killings under Authoritarian Regimes," HiCN Working Papers 296, Households in Conflict Network.
    12. Dower, Castaneda & Markevich, Andrei & Weber, Shlomo, 2018. "The Value of a Statistical Life in a Dictatorship: Evidence from Stalin," CEPR Discussion Papers 12814, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. repec:cge:wacage:2018 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Marek Hudik, 2019. "Two interpretations of the rational choice theory and the relevance of behavioral critique," Rationality and Society, , vol. 31(4), pages 464-489, November.
    15. Castañeda Dower, Paul & Markevich, Andrei & Weber, Shlomo, 2021. "The value of a statistical life in a dictatorship: Evidence from Stalin," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 133(C).
    16. Ferrero, Mario, 2013. "Extermination as a substitute for assimilation or deportation: an economic approach," POLIS Working Papers 174, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
    17. Wilson Perez-Oviedo, 2015. "Citizens, dictators and networks: A game theory approach," Rationality and Society, , vol. 27(1), pages 3-39, February.
    18. Dmitriy Vorobyev, 2010. "Growth of Electoral Fraud in Non-Democracies: The Role of Uncertainty," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp420, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    19. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2014. "Theory of Indiscriminate Violence," Working Paper 365551, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    20. David Karpa & Torben Klarl & Michael Rochlitz, 2021. "Artificial Intelligence, Surveillance, and Big Data," Papers 2111.00992, arXiv.org.
    21. Koyama, Mark & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2015. "The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China," MPRA Paper 62103, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Dictatorial systems Stalinism Soviet State and Party archives NKVD OPGU;

    JEL classification:

    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P00 - Economic Systems - - General - - - General
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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