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Making Autocracy Work

  • Timothy Besley
  • Masayuki Kudamatsu

One of the key goals of political economy is to understand how institutional arrangementsshape policy outcomes. This paper studies a comparatively neglected aspect of this - theforces that shape heterogeneous performance of autocracies. The paper develops a simpletheoretical model of accountability in the absence of regularized elections. Leadershipturnover is managed by a selectorate - a group of individuals on whom the leader depends tohold onto power. Good policy is institutionalized when the selectorate removes poorlyperforming leaders from office. This requires that the selectorate's hold on power is not toodependent on a specific leader being in office. The paper looks empirically at spells ofautocracy to establish cases where it has been successful according to various objectivecriteria. We use these case studies to identify the selectorate in specific instances of successfulautocracy. We also show that, consistent with the theory, leadership turnover in successfulautocracies is higher than in unsuccessful autocracies. Finally, we show by exploitingleadership deaths from natural causes that successful autocracies appear to have found waysfor selectorates to nominate successors without losing power - a feature which is alsoconsistent with the theoretical approach.

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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers with number 48.

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Date of creation: May 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stidep:48
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