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Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Civilian Control Over the Military


  • Timothy Besley
  • James A. Robinson


The question of who guards the guards is intimately connected with broader questions of state capacity and the establishment of a monopoly of violence in society, something which is often viewed as the defining feature of the modern state. But to establish such a monopoly, civilian rulers need not only to build an effective military, but also to control it. In this paper we study how governments may solve this problem when they recognize that their decisions to build a strong army may have ramifications for subsequent coups. (JEL: H11, H56) (c) 2010 by the European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Besley & James A. Robinson, 2010. "Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Civilian Control Over the Military," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 655-663, 04-05.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:8:y:2010:i:2-3:p:655-663

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Aguirre, Alvaro, 2016. "The risk of civil conflicts as a determinant of political institutions," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 36-59.
    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. Gabriel Leon, 2014. "Loyalty for sale? Military spending and coups d’etat," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 363-383, June.
    4. Raul Caruso & Jacopo Costa & Roberto Ricciuti, 2011. "The probability of military rule in Africa, 1970-2007," Working Papers 2011/26, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    5. Przeworski, Adam & Rivero, Gonzalo & Xi, Tianyang, 2015. "Elections as a conflict processing mechanism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 235-248.
    6. Aney, Madhav S. & Ko, Giovanni, 2015. "Expropriation risk and competition within the military," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 125-149.
    7. Vincenzo Bove & Roberto Nisticò, 2014. "Coups d’état and defense spending: a counterfactual analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 161(3), pages 321-344, December.
    8. Frode Martin Nordvik, 2014. "Does Oil Promote or Prevent Coups?," Working Papers No 7/2014, Centre for Applied Macro- and Petroleum economics (CAMP), BI Norwegian Business School.
    9. Leon, Gabriel, 2014. "Strategic redistribution: The political economy of populism in Latin America," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 39-51.
    10. Bove, Vincenzo & Nisticò, Roberto, 2014. "Military in politics and budgetary allocations," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 1065-1078.
    11. Caruso, Raul & Petrarca , Ilaria & Ricciuti, Roberto, 2013. "Is there a Diffusion of Military Regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa? Empirical Evidence in the Period 1972-2007," NEPS Working Papers 4/2013, Network of European Peace Scientists.
    12. Joshua R. Hendrickson & Alexander William Salter, 2016. "A Theory of Why the Ruthless Revolt," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(3), pages 295-316, November.
    13. Angelucci, Charles & Meraglia, Simone, 2013. "Trade, Self-Governance,and the Provision of Law and Order, with an Application To Medieval English Chartered Towns," TSE Working Papers 13-443, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    14. Amegashie, J. Atsu, 2015. "Regime spoiler or regime pawn: The military and distributional conflict in non-democracies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 491-502.
    15. J. Atsu Amegashie, 2014. "Regime Spoiler or Regime Pawn: The Military and Distributional Conflict in Non-Democracies," CESifo Working Paper Series 4770, CESifo Group Munich.
    16. Amegashie, J. Atsu, 2014. "Regime spoiler or regime pawn: the military and distributional conflict in non-democracies," MPRA Paper 55336, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Raul Caruso & Ilaria Petrarca & Roberto Ricciuti, 2012. "The Diffusion of Military Dictatorships," Working Papers 35/2012, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    18. Raul Caruso & Ilaria Petrarca & Roberto Ricciuti, 2014. "Spatial Concentration of Military Dictatorships in Sub-Saharan Africa (1977-2007)," CESifo Working Paper Series 4802, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War


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