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Autocratic rule in ethnically-diverse societies


  • Amegashie, J. Atsu


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Amegashie, J. Atsu, 2008. "Autocratic rule in ethnically-diverse societies," MPRA Paper 8933, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8933

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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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    8. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
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    11. 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 "Making Autocracy Work," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 48, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    12. 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.
    13. Gerard Padró 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. Robert J. Barro, 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 158-183, December.
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    18. Miguel, Edward & Gugerty, Mary Kay, 2005. "Ethnic diversity, social sanctions, and public goods in Kenya," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2325-2368, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre PECHER, 2013. "Ethnic conflict, power dynamics and growth," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2014008, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

    More about this item


    autocracy; ethnic diversity; kleptocracy; public capital; selectorate;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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