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Dictators and oligarchs: A dynamic theory of contested property rights

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  • Guriev, Sergei
  • Sonin, Konstantin

Abstract

In an economy with weak economic and political institutions, the major institutional choices are made strategically by oligarchs and dictators. The conventional wisdom presumes that as rent-seeking is harmful for oligarchs themselves, institutions such as property rights will emerge spontaneously. We explicitly model a dynamic game between the oligarchs and a dictator who can contain rent-seeking. The oligarchs choose either a weak dictator (who can be overthrown by an individual oligarch) or a strong dictator (who can only be replaced via a consensus of oligarchs). In equilibrium, no dictator can commit to both: (i) protecting the oligarchs' property rights from the other oligarchs and (ii) not expropriating oligarchs himself. We show that a weak dictator does not limit rent-seeking. A strong dictator does reduce rent-seeking but also expropriates individual oligarchs. We show that even though eliminating rent-seeking is Pareto optimal, weak dictators do get appointed in equilibrium and rent-seeking continues. This outcome is especially likely when economic environment is highly volatile.

Suggested Citation

  • Guriev, Sergei & Sonin, Konstantin, 2009. "Dictators and oligarchs: A dynamic theory of contested property rights," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 1-13, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:1-2:p:1-13
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    Cited by:

    1. Kevin Sheedy & Bernardo Guimaraes, 2011. "A model of equilibrium institutions," 2011 Meeting Papers 49, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. repec:elg:eechap:15325_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. Djumashev, Ratbek & Abdullaev, Bekzod, 2017. "Crime, Transition, and Growth," MPRA Paper 80842, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Francisco Pino & Jordi Vidal-Robert, 2014. "Habemus Papam ?Polarization and Conflict in the Papal States," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2014-27, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 173-192, Spring.
    7. 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.
    8. Michael Rochlitz, 2016. "Political Loyalty Vs Economic Performance: Evidence from Machine Politics in Russia’S Regions," HSE Working papers WP BRP 34/PS/2016, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    9. Daniel Diermeier & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2017. "Political Economy of Redistribution," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 851-870, May.
    10. Li, Yuan & Gilli, Mario, 2014. "Accountability in Autocracies: The Role of Revolution Threat," Stockholm School of Economics Asia Working Paper Series 2014-30, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm China Economic Research Institute, revised 06 Mar 2014.
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