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Rent seeking and regime stability in rentier states


  • Bjorvatn, Kjetil
  • Naghavi, Alireza


Are natural resources a source of conflict or stability? Empirical studies demonstrate that rents from natural resources, and in particular oil, are an important source of civil war. Allegedly, resource rents attract rent-seekers, which destabilize society. However, there is a large literature on how so-called rentier states manage to pacify opposition groups by handing out special favors. The present paper attempts to bridge the gap between the rent-seeking view of resource rents as a source of conflict and the rentier state view which emphasizes the role of resource rents in promoting peace and stability. The mechanism that we highlight relies on the notion that higher rents may activate more interest groups in a power struggle. We demonstrate that the associated increased cost of conflict may in fact promote regime stability. The peaceful solution is upheld by a self reinforcing transfer program, in the form of patronage employment. The chance of conflict and rent dissipation in our model is highest for intermediate levels of resource rents, where the government cannot make credible commitments to the opposition groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Bjorvatn, Kjetil & Naghavi, Alireza, 2011. "Rent seeking and regime stability in rentier states," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 740-748.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:27:y:2011:i:4:p:740-748
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2011.05.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2006. "Institutions and the Resource Curse," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(508), pages 1-20, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:3:p:532-541 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:elg:eechap:15325_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Rustam Jamilov, 2013. "Optimal Resource Rent," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp1046, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    4. Van Long, Ngo, 2013. "The theory of contests: A unified model and review of the literature," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 161-181.
    5. Tridimas, George, 2012. "How democracy was achieved," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 651-658.
    6. Chen, Hong & Feng, Qun & Cao, Jing, 2014. "Rent-seeking mechanism for safety supervision in the Chinese coal industry based on a tripartite game model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 140-145.
    7. Parcero, Osiris J. & Papyrakis, Elissaios, 2016. "Income inequality and the oil resource curse," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 159-177.
    8. Johan Lilliestam & Anthony Patt, 2015. "Barriers, Risks and Policies for Renewables in the Gulf States," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(8), pages 1-23, August.

    More about this item


    Rent seeking; Rentier states; Resource rents; Stability; Conflict; Patronage employment;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Q34 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts


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