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How to understand, and deal with dictatorship: an economist's view

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  • Ronald Wintrobe

Abstract

This paper explains in simple English some of the main ideas about autocracy first developed elsewhere (e.g., in my book, The Political Economy of Dictatorship (Cambridge University Press, 1998). I use rational choice theory to explain the behavior of dictatorships and develop policy toward them. Issues discussed in this paper include: How do successful regimes stay in power? What determines the repressiveness of a regime? Which type of regime redistributes more, dictatorship or democracy? Can dictatorships be good for economic growth and efficiency? The starting point of my analysis is The Dictator's Dilemma-the insecurity every dictator necessarily experiences about how much support he really has. Because of this, the dictator finds that the tool of repression is not enough to maintain his regime, and successful dictators typically rule with the loyal support of at least some groups of subjects (while repressing others). The levels of repression and support and the nature of the groups that give their support (labor, business, ethnic group, etc.) determine the character of the dictatorship. Among other results discussed, I show that some types of dictators – tinpots and timocrats – respond to an improvement in economic performance by lowering repression, while others – totalitarians and tyrants – respond by raising it. Finally I discuss optimal policy by the democracies toward dictatorships and I show that a single standard-aid or trade with a progressively tightening human rights constraint- is desirable if aid or trade with dictatorships of any type is to lower, not raise, repression. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Suggested Citation

  • Ronald Wintrobe, 2001. "How to understand, and deal with dictatorship: an economist's view," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 35-58, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:ecogov:v:2:y:2001:i:1:p:35-58
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    Cited by:

    1. Glazer, Amihai, 2002. "Allies as rivals: internal and external rent seeking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 155-162, June.
    2. Sajjad F. Dizaji & Mohammad Reza Farzanegan & Alireza Naghavi, 2016. "Political institutions and government spending behavior: theory and evidence from Iran," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(3), pages 522-549, June.
    3. Steffen Huck & Kai A. Konrad, 2005. "Moral Cost, Commitment, and Committee Size," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(4), pages 575-575, December.
    4. Markevich, Andrei, 2007. "How Much Control is Enough? Monitoring and Enforcement under Stalin," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 829, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    5. Wintrobe Ronald, 2013. "North Korea as a Military Dictatorship," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(3), pages 459-471, December.
    6. Petros Sekeris, 2011. "Endogenous elites: power structure and patron-client relationships," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 237-258, September.
    7. Michael Hoffman, 2005. "Discretion, Lobbying, and Political Influence in Models of Trade Policy," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 175-188.
    8. Andrei Markevich, 2007. "The Dictator’s Dilemma: to Punish or to Assist? Plan Failures and Interventions under Stalin," Working Papers w0107, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    9. Sajjad Faraji Dizaji & Mohammad Reza Farzanegan, 2014. "Political Institutions and Government Spending Behavior in Iran," CESifo Working Paper Series 4620, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Hackenesch, Christine, 2015. "It’s Domestic Politics, Stupid! EU Democracy Promotion Strategies Meet African Dominant Party Regimes," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 85-96.
    11. Balamatsias, Pavlos, 2018. "Democracy and government spending," MPRA Paper 84975, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Jim Rose & Simon Hay, 2001. "Three Steps Towards More Effective Development Assistance," Treasury Working Paper Series 01/26, New Zealand Treasury.
    13. William Hallagan, 2010. "Corruption in dictatorships," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 27-49, February.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Key words: dictatorship; autocracy; power; JEL classification: O1; H0; K2;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law

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