IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Killing Game: Reputation and Knowledge in Non-Democratic Succession


  • Egorov, Georgy
  • Sonin, Konstantin


The winner of a battle for a throne can either execute or spare the loser; if the loser is spared, he contends the throne in the next period. Executing the losing contender gives the winner an additional quiet period, but then his life is at risk if he loses to some future contender who might be, in equilibrium, too frightened to spare him. The trade-off is analysed within a dynamic complete information game, with, potentially, an infinite number of long-term players. In an equilibrium, decisions to execute predecessors are history-dependent. With a dynastic rule in place, incentives to kill the predecessor are much higher than in non-hereditary dictatorships. The historical part of our analytic narrative contains a detailed analysis of two types of non-democratic succession: hereditary rule of the Osmanli dynasty in the Ottoman Empire in 1281–1922, and non-hereditary military dictatorships in Venezuela in 1830–1964.

Suggested Citation

  • Egorov, Georgy & Sonin, Konstantin, 2005. "The Killing Game: Reputation and Knowledge in Non-Democratic Succession," CEPR Discussion Papers 5092, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5092

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2011. "Dictators And Their Viziers: Endogenizing The Loyalty–Competence Trade‐Off," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(5), pages 903-930, October.
    2. Luca Anderlini (Georgetown University), Dino Gerardi (Yale University), Roger Lagunoff (Georgetown University), 2004. "The Folk Theorem in Dynastic Repeated Games," Working Papers gueconwpa~04-04-09, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    3. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1993. "Why Is Rent-Seeking So Costly to Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 409-414, May.
    4. Lagunoff, Roger, 2006. "Credible communication in dynastic government," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 59-86, January.
    5. Avner Greif, "undated". "Economic History and Game Theory: a Survey," Working Papers 97017, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    6. Alexander Galetovic & Ricardo Sanhueza, 2000. "Citizens, Autocrats, and Plotters: A Model and New Evidence on Coups D'État," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 183-204, July.
    7. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1003-1026, October.
    8. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1989. "Observable Implications of Models with Multiple Equilibria," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1431-1437, November.
    9. Jeffrey C. Ely & Juuso Välimäki, 2003. "Bad Reputation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 785-814.
    10. Fudenberg Drew & Levine David K., 1994. "Efficiency and Observability with Long-Run and Short-Run Players," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 103-135, February.
    11. Acemoglu, Daron, 2003. "Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 620-652, December.
    12. Drew Fudenberg & David M. Kreps & Eric S. Maskin, 1990. "Repeated Games with Long-run and Short-run Players," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(4), pages 555-573.
    13. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
    14. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
    15. Roger Lagunoff, 2005. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Game Theory and Information 0501003, EconWPA.
    16. Gallego, M. & Pitchik, C., 2004. "An economic theory of leadership turnover," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2361-2382, December.
    17. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
    18. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 6355.
    19. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Predation, reputation, and entry deterrence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 280-312, August.
    20. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "A Theory of Dynamic Oligopoly, I: Overview and Quantity Competition with Large Fixed Costs," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(3), pages 549-569, May.
    21. Sorin, Sylvain, 1999. "Merging, Reputation, and Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 274-308, October.
    22. repec:rus:hseeco:72153 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Herschel I. Grossman & Suk Jae Noh, 1990. "A Theory Of Kleptocracy With Probabilistic Survival And Reputation," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 157-171, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Lagunoff, Roger, 2009. "Dynamic stability and reform of political institutions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 569-583, November.
    2. Jinhui H. Bai & Roger Lagunoff, 2011. "On the Faustian Dynamics of Policy and Political Power," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 17-48.
    3. Tim Willems & Shaun Larcom & Mare Sarr, 2014. "Dictators Walking the Mogadishu Line: How Men Become Monsters and Monsters Become Men," Economics Series Working Papers 701, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Roger Lagunoff (Georgetown University), 2005. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Working Papers gueconwpa~05-05-07, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    5. Besley, Timothy & Kudamatsu, Masayuki, 2007. "Making autocracy work," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3764, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Roger Lagunoff, 2004. "The Dynamic Reform of Political Institutions," Econometric Society 2004 Latin American Meetings 47, Econometric Society.
    7. Alexander Baturo, 2007. "Presidential Succession and Democratic Transitions," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp209, IIIS.
    8. Tim Willems & Shaun Larcom & Mare Sarr, 2013. "What shall we do with the bad dictator?," Economics Series Working Papers 671, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    9. Li, Yuan & Gilli, Mario, 2014. "Accountability in Autocracies: The Role of Revolution Threat," Stockholm School of Economics Asia Working Paper Series 2014-30, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm China Economic Research Institute, revised 06 Mar 2014.

    More about this item


    dictatorship; economic history; positive political theory; succession;

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5092. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.