Dear leaders

Kevin Lewis

June 16, 2017

When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader
Hemant Kakkar & Niro Sivanathan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming


Across the globe we witness the rise of populist authoritarian leaders who are overbearing in their narrative, aggressive in behavior, and often exhibit questionable moral character. Drawing on evolutionary theory of leadership emergence, in which dominance and prestige are seen as dual routes to leadership, we provide a situational and psychological account for when and why dominant leaders are preferred over other respected and admired candidates. We test our hypothesis using three studies, encompassing more than 140,000 participants, across 69 countries and spanning the past two decades. We find robust support for our hypothesis that under a situational threat of economic uncertainty (as exemplified by the poverty rate, the housing vacancy rate, and the unemployment rate) people escalate their support for dominant leaders. Further, we find that this phenomenon is mediated by participants’ psychological sense of a lack of personal control. Together, these results provide large-scale, globally representative evidence for the structural and psychological antecedents that increase the preference for dominant leaders over their prestigious counterparts.

Strategic gerontocracy: Why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders
Raul Magni Berton & Sophie Panel
Public Choice, June 2017, Pages 409–427


One characteristic of nondemocratic regimes is that leaders cannot be removed from office by legal means: in most authoritarian regimes, no institutional way of dismissing incompetent rulers is available, and overthrowing them is costly. Anticipating this, people who have a say in the selection of the leader are likely to resort to alternative strategies to limit his tenure. In this paper, we examine empirically the “strategic gerontocracy” hypothesis: Because selecting aging leaders is a convenient way of reducing their expected time in office, gerontocracy will become a likely outcome whenever leaders are expected to rule for life. We test this hypothesis using data on political leaders for the period from 1960 to 2008, and find that dictators have shorter life expectancies than democrats at the time they take office. We also observe variations in the life expectancies of dictators: those who are selected by consent are on average closer to death than those who seize power in an irregular manner. This finding suggests that gerontocracy is a consequence of the choice process, since it disappears when dictators self-select into leadership positions.

British Public Debt, the Acadian Expulsion and the American Revolution
Vincent Geloso
Texas Tech University Working Paper, May 2017


Starting in 1755, the French-speaking colonists of Atlantic Canada (known as the Acadians) were deported by the British. The expulsion was desired by the American colonists in New England but was opposed by the government back in England. In fact, the expulsion was enacted against the wishes of the Imperial government. Set against the backdrop of rising public debt in England, the costly expulsion of the Acadians (combined with the subsequent conquest of the French-speaking colony of Quebec) contributed to a change in policy course favoring centralization. Using public choice theory, I construct a narrative to argue that the Acadian expulsion contributed to the initiation of the American Revolution.

The New New Civil Wars
Barbara Walter
Annual Review of Political Science, 2017, Pages 469-486


Post-2003 civil wars are different from previous civil wars in three striking ways. First, most of them are situated in Muslim-majority countries. Second, most of the rebel groups fighting these wars espouse radical Islamist ideas and goals. Third, most of these radical groups are pursuing transnational rather than national aims. Current civil war theories can explain some of what is going on, but not everything. In this article, I argue that the transformation of information technology, especially the advent of the Web 2.0 in the early 2000s, is the big new innovation that is likely driving many of these changes. I offer a theory to explain why rebel groups, especially those in Muslim countries, have chosen to pursue a particular type of extreme ideology and goals. I then identify the six big implications this new information environment is likely to have for rebel behavior in the future. Innovations in information and communication technology are currently manifesting themselves in the rise of global Jihadi groups in the Muslim world, but we can expect them to be exploited by other groups as well.

The logic of hereditary rule: Theory and evidence
Timothy Besley & Marta Reynal-Querol
Journal of Economic Growth, June 2017, Pages 123–144


Hereditary leadership has been an important feature of the political landscape throughout history. This paper argues that hereditary leadership is like a relational contract which improves policy incentives. We assemble a unique dataset on leaders between 1874 and 2004 in which we classify them as hereditary leaders based on their family history. The core empirical finding is that economic growth is higher in polities with hereditary leaders but only if executive constraints are weak. Moreover, this holds across of a range of specifications. The finding is also mirrored in policy outcomes which affect growth. In addition, we find that hereditary leadership is more likely to come to an end when the growth performance under the incumbent leader is poor.

Protests and trust in the state: Evidence from African countries
Marc Sangnier & Yanos Zylberberg
Journal of Public Economics, August 2017, Pages 55–67


This paper provides empirical evidence that, after protests, citizens substantially revise their views on the current leader, but also their trust in the country's institutions. The empirical strategy exploits variation in the timing of an individual level survey and the proximity to social protests in 13 African countries. First, we find that trust in political leaders strongly and abruptly decreases after protests. Second, trust in the country monitoring institutions plunges as well. Both effects are much stronger when protests are repressed by the government. As no signs of distrust are recorded even a couple of days before the social conflicts, protests can be interpreted as sudden signals sent on a leaders' actions from which citizens extract information on their country fundamentals.

Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods
Christine Fair et al.
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Spring 2017, Pages 99-141


How natural disasters affect politics in developing countries is an important question, given the fragility of fledgling democratic institutions in some of these countries as well as likely increased exposure to natural disasters over time due to climate change. Research in sociology and psychology suggests traumatic events can inspire pro-social behavior and therefore might increase political engagement. Research in political science argues that economic resources are critical for political engagement and thus the economic dislocation from disasters may dampen participation. We argue that when the government and civil society response effectively blunts a disaster's economic impacts, then political engagement may increase as citizens learn about government capacity. Using diverse data from the massive 2010–11 Pakistan floods, we find that Pakistanis in highly flood-affected areas turned out to vote at substantially higher rates three years later than those less exposed. We also provide speculative evidence on the mechanism. The increase in turnout was higher in areas with lower ex ante flood risk, which is consistent with a learning process. These results suggest that natural disasters may not necessarily undermine civil society in emerging developing democracies.

Minorities in Dictatorship and Democracy
Arseniy Samsonov
University of California Working Paper, May 2017


It is a widely-held belief that democracy is good for minorities. However, there are countries like India, Turkey, or Sri Lanka where a competitive political system coincided with ethnic discrimination and conflict. I build a theoretical model that links minority welfare to the level of democracy and the ethnic structure of the society. In the game, ethnic groups form coalitions to share resources, and the level of democracy is modeled as the size of the minimum decisive coalition. I show that, for minorities, a very high or very low level of democracy is preferable to a medium level, because in an autocracy minority rule is possible, while a very democratic system makes the inclusion of minorities necessary. Given a medium level of democracy, the majority group is sufficient to rule, so minorities are not included. Minorities are more likely to prefer autocracy over democracy if the majority group is sufficiently large and the level of diversity is high. I find empirical support for the model's main results using the Ethnic Power Relations dataset.

Legacies of Violence: Conflict-specific Capital and the Postconflict Diffusion of Civil War
Corinne Bara
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


Civil wars have a tendency to spread across borders. In several instances of conflict diffusion, however, conflicts spread well after their cessation at home. Whereas existing diffusion research has not attached much importance to this observation, I argue that these conflicts are instances of a broader pattern of postconflict diffusion. Wars are particularly prone to spread after termination because the end of fighting generates a surplus of weapons, combatants, and rebel leaders whose fortunes are tied to the continuation of violence. Some of these resources circulate throughout the region via the small arms trade and through transnational rebel networks, making this a time at which it should be easier for nonstate groups in the neighborhood to build a capable rebel army. The results from two complementary statistical tests on global conflict data provide strong support for such a postconflict diffusion effect.

No extraction without representation: The ethno-regional oil curse and secessionist conflict
Philipp Hunziker & Lars-Erik Cederman
Journal of Peace Research, May 2017, Pages 365-381


A large body of literature claims that oil production increases the risk of civil war. However, a growing number of skeptics argue that the oil–conflict link is not causal, but merely an artifact of flawed research designs. This article re-evaluates whether – and where – oil causes conflict by employing a novel identification strategy based on the geological determinants of hydrocarbon reserves. We employ geospatial data on the location of sedimentary basins as a new spatially disaggregated instrument for petroleum production. Combined with newly collected data on oil field locations, this approach allows investigating the causal effect of oil on conflict at the national and subnational levels. Contrary to the recent criticism, we find that previous work has underestimated the magnitude of the conflict-inducing effect of oil production. Our results indicate that oil has a large and robust effect on the likelihood of secessionist conflict, especially if it is produced in populated areas. In contrast, oil production does not appear to be linked to center-seeking civil wars. Moreover, we find considerable evidence in favor of an ethno-regional explanation of this link. Oil production significantly increases the risk of armed secessionism if it occurs in the settlement areas of ethnic minorities.

Youth Bulges and Civil Conflict: Causal Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa
Matthias Flückiger & Markus Ludwig
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


The presence of an exceptionally large youth population, that is, a youth bulge, is often associated with an elevated risk of civil conflict. In this article, we develop an instrumental variable approach in which the size of the youth cohorts in Sub-Saharan Africa is identified using variation in birth-year drought incidence. Our results show that an increase in the size of the population group aged fifteen to nineteen raises the risk of low-intensity conflict. A 1 percent increase in the size of this age-group augments the likelihood of civil conflict incidence (onset) by 2.3 (1.2) percentage points. On the other hand, we do not find any association between the size of the two adjacent youth cohorts, that is, the population groups aged ten to fourteen and twenty to twenty-four.

Is Self-determination Contagious? A Spatial Analysis of the Spread of Self-Determination Claims
Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham & Katherine Sawyer
International Organization, forthcoming


Self-determination claims have abounded in the international system since the end of World War II. But these claims have not emerged everywhere. About half of the states in the international system face some challenge related to self-determination today. Why do some states face these demands while others do not? We argue that ethno-national self-determination is one of many identities with which individuals can find affinity. While an international norm related to self-determination has developed globally, its use as a basis for political claims has diffused regionally. Diffusion of self-determination occurs through observation of others using self-determination as a basis of organization, generating a sense of legitimacy, sensitivity to related grievance, and perceptions of tangible benefits related to self-determination identification. We test this empirically on global data on self-determination claims from 1960 to 2005 and find evidence of spatial diffusion, suggesting that self-determination is, to some extent, contagious.

Ethnic inequality and coups in sub-Saharan Africa
Christian Houle & Cristina Bodea
Journal of Peace Research, May 2017, Pages 382-396


Does ethnic inequality breed coups? The recent literature on civil war shows both that inequality between ethnic groups induces war and, importantly, that civil wars and coups, although fundamentally different, are related. The literature on coups d’état, however, has yet to theorize and test the effect of ethnic inequality on coups. The link is plausible because many coups are ‘ethnic coups’, which depend on the capacity of plotters to mobilize their co-ethnics. We argue that large income and wealth disparities between ethnic groups accompanied by within-group homogeneity increase the salience of ethnicity and solidify within-group preferences vis-à-vis the preferences of other ethnic groups, increasing the appeal and feasibility of a coup. We use group-level data for 32 sub-Saharan African countries and 141 ethnic groups between 1960 and 2005 and provide the first large-N test to date of the effect of ethnic inequality on coups. Between- and within-group inequality measures are constructed based on survey data from the Afrobarometer and the Demographic and Health Surveys. We find strong support for our hypothesis: between-ethnic-group inequality (BGI) increases the likelihood that an ethnic group stages a coup only when within-ethnic-group inequality (WGI) is low. Coups remain frequent in sub-Saharan Africa and coups are the main threat to democracy in the region, by harming democratic consolidation and economic development, and by provoking further political instability. Our work provides a novel rationale to be concerned about ethnic inequality, showing that when ethnic and income cleavages overlap, destabilizing coups d’état are more likely.

Praying for Rain? Water Scarcity and the Duration and Outcomes of Civil Wars
Eric Keels
Defence and Peace Economics, forthcoming


Recent anecdotal evidence from the civil wars in Somalia and Yemen suggest that water scarcity may shape the dynamics of civil wars. While a considerable body of research has examined the connection between water scarcity (such as low rainfall) and the onset of civil war, very little research has examined how water scarcity may shape the duration and outcomes of civil wars. Looking specifically at rainfall, this paper argues that changes in access to water play a key role in the duration of civil wars. As rainfall declines, there is a reduction in resources available to both the government and the rebel group, leading to a stalemate in fighting. Furthermore, this paper argues that declines in rainfall are felt more acutely by rebel groups who seek to challenge the government through conventional warfare. This paper tests these propositions using hazard models. The results provide robust support for the propositions.

The effect of sexual violence on negotiated outcomes in civil conflicts
Tiffany Chu & Jessica Maves Braithwaite
Conflict Management and Peace Science, forthcoming


Combatants used sexual violence in approximately half of all civil conflicts since 1989. We expect that when groups resort to sexual violence they are organizationally vulnerable, unlikely to win, and as such they are inclined to salvage something from the conflict by way of a settlement. Using quantitative analysis of data on civil conflicts in the post-Cold War period, we find that a higher prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated by government forces precipitates negotiated outcomes. This is particularly true in contexts where both government and rebel forces utilize comparable levels of wartime rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Group Concentration and Violence: Does Ethnic Segregation Affect Domestic Terrorism?
Roberto Ezcurra
Defence and Peace Economics, forthcoming


This paper examines the link between ethnic segregation and domestic terrorism. The results show that ethnic segregation has a positive and significant effect on the incidence of domestic terrorism, which indicates that countries where ethnic groups are spatially concentrated face a higher risk of suffering this type of violence. This finding is not affected by the inclusion in the analysis of different covariates that may affect both ethnic segregation and domestic terrorism. The observed relationship between the degree of spatial concentration of ethnic groups and domestic terrorism is confirmed by various robustness tests. The results also suggest that the threat of secession is an important transmission channel linking ethnic segregation and domestic terrorism.


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