DRI Working Paper No. 32
By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, NYU and Alastair Smith, NYU
Political Survival and Endogenous Institutional Change
Incumbent political leaders risk deposition by challengers within the existing political rules and by revolutionary threats. Building on Bueno de Mesquita, Smith, Siverson, and Morrow’s selectorate theory, the model here examines the policy responses of office-seeking leaders to revolutionary threats. Whether leaders suppress public goods such as freedom of assembly and freedom of information to hinder the organizational ability of potential revolutionaries or appease potential revolutionaries by increasing the provision of public goods depends, in part, on the sources of government revenues. Empirical tests show that governments with access to revenue sources that require few labor inputs by the citizens, such as natural resource rents or foreign aid, reduce the provision of public goods and increase the odds of increased authoritarianism in the face of revolutionary pressures. In contrast without these sources of unearned revenues, governments respond to revolutionary pressures by increasing the provision of public goods and democratizing.