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Leader Survival, Revolutions, and the Nature of Government Finance

Authors


  • An earlier version of article was presented in 2008 at the “Dictatorships: Their Governance and Social Consequences” conference at Princeton University. We thank the conference participants for their informative comments. We also thank several anonymous reviewers for their insights. All the data, program files, and statistical analyses, as well as additional robustness tests, are available at http://politics.as.nyu.edu/object/datapage.html.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is Professor of Politics, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th St., New York, NY 10012 (bruce.buenodemesquita@nyu.edu). Alastair Smith is Professor of Politics, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th St., New York, NY 10012 (Alastair.Smith@nyu.edu).

Abstract

Leaders face multiple threats to their political survival. In addition to surviving the threats to tenure from within the existing political systems, which is modeled using Bueno de Mesquita and colleagues' (2003) selectorate theory, leaders risk being deposed through revolutions and coups. To ameliorate the threat of revolution, leaders can either increase public goods provisions to buy off potential revolutionaries or contract the provision of those public goods, such as freedom of assembly, transparency, and free press, which enable revolutionaries to coordinate. Which response a leader chooses depends upon existing institutions and the structure of government finances. These factors also affect the likelihood and direction of institutional change. Tests of leader survival indicate that revolutionary threats increase the likelihood of deposition for nondemocratic leaders. Leaders with access to resources such as foreign aid or natural resource rents are best equipped to survive these threats and avoid the occurrence of these threats in the first place.

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