April 1, 2007Foreign Affairs

Dictators in the face of civil unrest - the record

Why some autocratic regimes survive and others fail…and how to replace them with democracy

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The folks at the World Bank are amusing. They studied 188 regimes in 118 countries over the period 1960-2003 to work out a kleptocrat’s survival guide. (via The Bayesian Heresy)

A model of political survival suggests that autocrats exchange constraints on their executive power for their continued survival. The relationship between payouts from successful rebellion and ease of rebellion determines how willing kleptocrats are to extend the political franchise and protect their power. Results show that extremely oppressive regimes and great expenditures on security are likely to accompany the most difficult environments for defense of the state. The model is used to identify the costs of pervasive political conflict and to decompose the civil peace dividend” enjoyed by inclusive democracies that do not suffer from the malady of kleptocratic rule [Gary Milante/World Bank]

All this, of course, is interesting. But for all the analysis, one conclusion is predictable and banal.

Finally, the model suggests that slow democratization pushed by the autocratic elites to guarantee their survival, accompanied by stable development, may be the best path toward a democratic future for many fragile states. [Milante/WB]

Then again, perhaps its not so predictable and banal—in an age where felled statues, colour revolutions and crowds on Government square are expected (by excited television anchors) to usher in democracy.

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