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Insurgency and Credible Commitment in Autocracies and Democracies

  • Philip Keefer

The inability of political actors to make credible promises to broad segments of society--a previously unexplored determinant of civil war--causes both elected and unelected governments to pursue public policies that leave citizens worse off and more prone to revolt. Noncredible political actors are also less able to build counterinsurgency capacity. Popular dissatisfaction with rulers reduces the costs to counterinsurgents of overthrowing regimes, discouraging rulers from building counterinsurgency capacity in the first place; lack of credibility prevents rulers from writing contracts with counterinsurgents that maximize counterinsurgency effort. Empirical tests across numerous subsamples using various measures of political credibility support the conclusion that broad political credibility ranks at least as high as social fractionalization and natural resource rents as a cause of conflict. Copyright The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / the world bank . All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/wber/lhm019
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Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal The World Bank Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 33-61

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Handle: RePEc:oup:wbecrv:v:22:y:2008:i:1:p:33-61
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  1. Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2002. "Institutions and the resource curse," GE, Growth, Math methods 0210004, EconWPA.
  2. Michelle R Garfinkel & Stergios Skaperdas, 2001. "Conflict Without Misperceptions or Incomplete Information: How the Future Matters," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000011, David K. Levine.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521029018 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Joan-Maria Esteban & Debraj Ray, 1991. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 18, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  5. Robinson, James A & Torvik, Ragnar & Verdier, Thierry, 2002. "Political Foundations of the Resource Curse," CEPR Discussion Papers 3422, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  7. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2002. " Polarization, Politics and Property Rights: Links between Inequality and Growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 111(1-2), pages 127-54, March.
  8. Beck, Thorsten & Clarke, George & Groff, Alberto & Keefer, Philip & Walsh, Patrick, 2000. "New tools and new tests in comparative political economy - the database of political institutions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2283, The World Bank.
  9. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
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