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Self-serving dictators and economic growth


  • Haile, Daniel
  • Sadrieh, Abdolkarim
  • Verbon, Harrie A.A.


A new line of theoretical and empirical literature emphasizes the pivotal role of fair institutions for growth. We present a model, a laboratory experiment, and a simple cross-country regression supporting this view. We model an economy with an unequal distribution of property rights, in which individuals can free-ride or cooperate. Experimentally we observe a dramatic drop in cooperation (and growth), when inequality is increased by a selfserving dictator. No such effect is observed when the inequality is increased by a fair procedure. Our regression analysis provides basic macroeconomic support for the adverse growth effect of the interaction between the degree and the genesis of inequality. We conclude that economies giving equal opportunities to all are not likely to suffer retarded growth due to inequality in the way economies with self-serving dictators will.
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  • Haile, Daniel & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Verbon, Harrie A.A., 2008. "Self-serving dictators and economic growth," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 573-586, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:67:y:2008:i:3-4:p:573-586

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Greiner, Ben & Ockenfels, Axel & Werner, Peter, 2012. "The dynamic interplay of inequality and trust—An experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 355-365.
    2. Daniel Haile & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Harrie A. A Verbon, 2006. "Cross-Racial Envy and Underinvestment in South Africa," CESifo Working Paper Series 1657, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2006. "Inequality and growth in the presence of competition for status," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 291-296, November.
    4. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2013. "Trust, Welfare States and Income Equality: What Causes What?," Working Paper Series 994, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    5. Ece Yagman & Malcolm Keswell, 2015. "Accents, Race and Discrimination: Evidence from a Trust Game," SALDRU Working Papers 158, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems


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