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The by-product theory of revolution: Some empirical evidence


  • Phillip Cartwright
  • Charles Delorme
  • Norman Wood


This study has focused on the by-product theory of revolution and has employed tobit analysis in an attempt to determine economic variables that increase the likelihood of revolution in developing countries. Regression results on the duration of revolution were reported for fifty-four developing countries located in Asia and Africa based upon data collected for the period 1955–1975. While we examined a number of economic variables, interesting findings on only three variables are offered in this empirical investigation of revolution in Asia and Africa. First, it was found that the rate of inflation does have a positive influence on revolution in developing countries. If revolution does occur in such a country, the rate of inflation increases the duration of revolution which serves as a proxy for revolutionary victory. That is, an increase in the rate of inflation increases widespread complaints and heightens public hostility toward the central government which induces further participation in revolution. Thus, our finding about inflation and revolution seems to support the thesis by Milton Friedman that high rates of inflation in developing countries, caused by erratic monetary growth, can result in political unrest or revolutionary activity. Secondly, we were not able to determine if the size of the military budget had any influence on revolutionary behavior. Since an increase in the size of the military budget indicates a decrease in the likelihood of a long revolution, we expected that our results would show a negative relationship between military expenditures as a percent of GNP and the duration of revolution. Our findings did not confirm our expectations since the coefficient on the variable was found not to be significant. Finally, we introduced into our model a variable for the annual rate of growth in GNP to test the thesis by Olson that rapid economic growth can be socially destabilizing. The effect in our tobit model was found to be negative and not significant. Although this study is only a first attempt to use tobit analysis to model revolutionary behavior in developing countries in Asia and Africa, we believe that we have captured an important economic variable in the by-product theory of revolution and that variable is the rate of inflation. Copyright Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1985

Suggested Citation

  • Phillip Cartwright & Charles Delorme & Norman Wood, 1985. "The by-product theory of revolution: Some empirical evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 265-274, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:46:y:1985:i:3:p:265-274
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00124424

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olson, Mancur, 1963. "Rapid Growth as a Destabilizing Force," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(04), pages 529-552, December.
    2. Gordon Tullock, 1971. "The paradox of revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 89-99, September.
    3. Amemiya, Takeshi, 1973. "Regression Analysis when the Dependent Variable is Truncated Normal," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(6), pages 997-1016, November.
    4. Nandy, Ashis, 1975. " The Economic and Psychoeconomic Contexts of Political Commitment and Dissent," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 653-660, July.
    5. Tollison, Robert D, 1982. "Rent Seeking: A Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 575-602.
    6. McDonald, John F & Moffitt, Robert A, 1980. "The Uses of Tobit Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(2), pages 318-321, May.
    7. Friedman, Milton, 1977. "Nobel Lecture: Inflation and Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 451-472, June.
    8. Richard Kirk, 1983. "Political terrorism and the size of government: A positive institutional analysis of violent political activity," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 41-52, January.
    9. Morris Silver, 1974. "Political revolution and repression: An economic approach," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 63-71, March.
    10. Thomas Ireland, 1967. "The rationale of revolt," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 49-66, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. John Mbaku & Chris Paul, 1989. "Political instability in Africa: A rent-seeking approach," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 63(1), pages 63-72, October.
    2. Yi Wen, 2012. "Liquidity and welfare," Working Papers 2012-037, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

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