Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Instability of Democracy as Resource Curse

Polterovich, Victor and Popov, Vladimir and Tonis, Alexander (2009): Instability of Democracy as Resource Curse.


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We suggest a dynamic game theoretic model to explain why resource abundance may lead to instability of democracy. Stationary Markov perfect equilibria of this game with four players – Politician, Oligarch, Autocrat and Public (voters) – are analyzed. Choosing a rate of resource rent tax, potential Autocrat competes with conventional Politician for the office, and Oligarch, the owner of the resource wealth, bribes Politician to influence her decisions. Actual Autocrat's tax policy may be different from the announced one. If the difference is large, then Public may revolt or Oligarch may organize a coup to throw Autocrat down.

It is shown that the probability of democracy preservation is decreasing in the amount of resources if the institutional quality is low enough. It does not depend on the amount of resources, if the institutional quality is higher than a threshold. The level of the threshold, however, depends positively on the resource wealth. We have found also that under very low institutional quality, a paradoxical effect takes place: the probability of democracy preservation may decrease with small improvements of institutional quality.

It is shown as well that Oligarch earns larger part of rent under democracy than under autocracy. This result conforms to empirical observation which is demonstrated in the paper: under low quality of institutions, democratization leads to higher inequality and inequality entails worsening of the attitude to democracy.

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