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Autocratic rule in ethnically-diverse societies

  • Amegashie, J. Atsu
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    Richer and more educated citizens demand better governance than poorer citizens. They participate more in the political process, are more difficult to buy off, and tend to have the financial resources to support a revolt. An autocrat who is politically insecure may therefore not invest in income-enhancing goods like education, roads, the rule of law, etc. This argument is not new. The novelty of this paper is to argue that ethnic diversity and discrimination exacerbate an autocrat’s fear of the negative effect of high income or income-enhancing investments like public education on his political survival. The combination of ethnic diversity and the fear of survival results in low economic performance in ethnically-diverse autocracies. I show that under such circumstances, the proportion of national income that the autocrat appropriates to himself is increasing in the degree of ethnic diversity. An implication is that in such ethnically-diverse societies, kleptocrats may be better off with a bigger share of a smaller national income than they are with a smaller share of a bigger national income. Previous empirical work provides some support for my theory. I discuss applications and limitations of my results.

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    Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 8933.

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    Date of creation: 02 Jun 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8933
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    1. James A. Robinson, 1999. "When is a State Predatory?," CESifo Working Paper Series 178, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. James A. Robinson & Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Political Losers as a Barrier to Economic Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 126-130, May.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1997. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," NBER Working Papers 6009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 1999. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," NBER Working Papers 7155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Robert J. Barro, 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S158-S183, December.
    6. Robinson, James A & Torvik, Ragnar, 2002. "White Elephants," CEPR Discussion Papers 3459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2007. "Making Autocracy Work," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 48, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    8. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2003. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2028, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    9. Paul Collier, 2001. "Implications of ethnic diversity," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 127-166, 04.
    10. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 2002. "Economic Backwardness in Political Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 3261, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Ling Shen, 2005. "When will a dictator be good?," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse22_2005, University of Bonn, Germany.
    12. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "Why does democracy need education?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June.
    13. Gerard Padr� i Miquel, 2007. "The Control of Politicians in Divided Societies: The Politics of Fear," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(4), pages 1259-1274.
    14. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2006. "Persistence of Power, Elites and Institutions," NBER Working Papers 12108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Easterly, W & Levine, R, 1996. "Africa's Growth Tragedy : Policies and Ethnic Divisions," Papers 536, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
    16. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521583299 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Thierry Verdier, 2003. "Kleptocracy and Divide-and-Rule: A Model of Personal Rule," NBER Working Papers 10136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. La Ferrara, Eliana & Alesina, Alberto, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," Scholarly Articles 4551796, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    19. Bluedorn, John C., 2001. "Can democracy help? Growth and ethnic divisions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 121-126, January.
    20. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2005. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Scholarly Articles 4553005, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    21. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
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