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Theocracy is just another Form of Dictatorship: Theory and Evidence from the Papal Regimes

  • Fabio Padovano

    (Condorcet Center for Political Economy, University of Rennes 1 and CREM-CNRS UMR 6211, France - DIPES, Università Roma Tre, Italy)

  • Ronald Wintrobe

    (University of Western Ontario, USA)

This paper tests the explanatory and predictive power of a theory of dictatorship (e.g., Wintrobe 1998, 2007) when applied to the case of theocracy and in particular to the history of the temporal power of the Popes. We consider the behaviour of the Catholic theocracy in the Papal States, as this was a very long lasting theocracy, exposed to many historical shocks that reveal information about the incentives and constraints that characterize it. We use this information to test the explanatory power of the theory of dictatorship, showing that never in the history of the temporal power of the Church have the four categories of dictatorship that the theory foresees (tinpot, tyrant, totalitarian and conceivably timocrat) proven inadequate. Theocracy is just like any other form of dictatorship. Furthermore, we test some of the predictions of the theory of dictatorship about the durability of, and the source of opposition to the various regimes on data about the Papacy. The results appear to support the theory.

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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS in its series Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) with number 201302.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:tut:cremwp:201302
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  1. Bernholz, Peter, 2001. " Ideocracy and Totalitarianism: A Formal Analysis Incorporating Ideology," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 108(1-2), pages 33-75, July.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521583299 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Shapiro, Carl, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 659-79, November.
  4. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  5. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
  6. Muhammed N. Islam & Stanley L. Winer, 2004. "Tinpots, Totalitarians (and Democrats): An Empirical Investigation of the Effects of Economic Growth on Civil Liberties and Political Rights," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 118(3_4), pages 289-323, 03.
  7. Ekelund, Robert B. & Hebert, Robert F. & Tollison, Robert D. & Anderson, Gary M. & Davidson, Audrey B., 1997. "Sacred Trust: The Medieval Church as an Economic Firm," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195103373, March.
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