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Logrolling under Fragmented Authoritarianism: Theory and Evidence from China


  • Mario, Gilli
  • Yuan, Li
  • Jiwei, Qian


Autocratic policy-making processes have been under studied both theoretically and empirically, while most literature on autocracies has assumed them to have a monolithic and top-down nature. This paper seeks to remedy this deficiency by focusing on logrolling among interest groups in fragmented autocracies, and tries to pick apart the black-box of decision making in autocracies. In particular, we focus on China where decision making exemplifies a process of logrolling among key actors in the political system. The key question in this paper is: what are the effects of the logrolling of parochial interest groups on state policies and social welfare in autocracies? We address this question both theoretically and empirically. The theoretical model helps us to focus on a specific distortion in resource allocation because of logrolling, while the econometric results confirm our theoretical prediction in a very robust way. To find out the distinctive consequences of autocratic logrolling on state policy and social welfare, we compare the policy outcomes under logrolling with the policy outcomes under different decision-making rules. We find policy outcomes under logrolling are characterized by excessive spending on all the interest groups' preferred goods and insufficient spending on public goods. Finally, the paper provides empirical evidence on autocratic logrolling by studying the effects of the interaction between two vertical bureaucracies in China – the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Health. In particular, we test the predictions of our model and identify the effects of logrolling in autocracies. Building on the existing literature, we introduce new approaches, including natural experiment and placebo test, to empirically test the existence of logrolling and identify its effects. We show that the direction of inefficiency on resource allocation is in accordance with the prediction in our theoretical model.

Suggested Citation

  • Mario, Gilli & Yuan, Li & Jiwei, Qian, 2016. "Logrolling under Fragmented Authoritarianism: Theory and Evidence from China," Working Papers 333, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 16 May 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:333

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    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:04:p:1181-1206_08 is not listed on IDEAS
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    4. Peter Bernholz, 2012. "From The Calculus of Consent to extended logrolling, negative externalities, and the Coase theorem," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 265-271, September.
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    9. Jiwei Qian & Ka Ho Mok, 2016. "Dual Decentralization and Fragmented Authoritarianism in Governance: Crowding Out among Social Programmes in China," Public Administration & Development, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(3), pages 185-197, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mario, Gilli & Yuan, Li, 2018. "Transitions and Political Stability in Autocracies. The Role of Public Perception," Working Papers 383, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 13 Jul 2018.

    More about this item


    Authoritarianism; Policy Making; Logrolling; Fragmented Authoritarianism; China.;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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