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Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Tristan Reed
  • James A. Robinson

Abstract

We study the effect of constraints on chiefs' power on economic outcomes, citizens' attitudes, and social capital. A paramount chief in Sierra Leone must come from a ruling family originally recognized by British colonial authorities. In chiefdoms with fewer ruling families, chiefs face less political competition, and development outcomes are significantly worse today. Variation in the security of property rights over land is a potential mechanism. Paradoxically, with fewer ruling families, the institutions of chiefs' authority are more highly respected, and measured social capital is higher. We argue that these results reflect the capture of civil society organizations by chiefs.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Tristan Reed & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(2), pages 319-368.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/674988
    DOI: 10.1086/674988
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