Running a country

Kevin Lewis

October 09, 2017

International Institutions and Political Liberalization: Evidence from the World Bank Loans Program
Allison Carnegie & Cyrus Samii
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

How do international institutions affect political liberalization in member states? Motivated by an examination of the World Bank loans program, this article shows that institutions can incentivize liberalization by offering opportunities for countries to become associated with advanced, wealthy members. In the World Bank, when a loan recipient reaches a specified level of economic development, it becomes eligible to graduate from borrower status to lender status. Using a regression discontinuity design, the study demonstrates that this incentive motivates states to improve their domestic behavior with respect to human rights and democracy. Combining qualitative and quantitative evidence, the results suggest that the desire to become a member of this elite group is responsible for motivating member states to reform due to the belief that such membership brings diffuse international and domestic benefits.

Torture and the limits of democratic institutions
Courtenay Conrad, Daniel Hill & Will Moore
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming

What are the limits of democracy’s positive influence on human rights? In this article, we argue that contested elections and powerful courts provide leaders with different incentives with regard to hiding torture. Because government torture is generally targeted at individuals that voters find threatening, institutions that reflect public opinion – like electoral contestation – are associated with higher levels of government abuse that leave scars on the victim’s body. Other institutions – like powerful courts – protect the rights of political minorities. Leaders in countries with powerful courts prefer plausible deniability of rights violations and consequently employ higher levels of clean torture, which leaves no scars. We test our hypotheses using data from the Ill-Treatment and Torture (ITT) Data Collection Project that distinguish between Amnesty International (AI) allegations of scarring and clean torture. We employ an undercount negative binomial that accounts for AI’s (in)ability to obtain information about torture. The model assumes that some incidents of torture go unreported and allows the extent of underreporting to vary across countries/years. Estimates from the model yield considerable statistical and substantive support for our hypotheses.

Colonial Origins of Maoist Insurgency in India: Historical Institutions and Civil War
Shivaji Mukherjee
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

What are the long-term effects of colonial institutions on insurgency? My article shows the historical origins of insurgency by addressing the puzzle of why the persistent Maoist insurgency, considered to be India’s biggest internal security threat, affects some districts along the central eastern corridor of India but not others. Combining archival and interview data from fieldwork in Maoist zones with an original district-level quantitative data set, I demonstrate that different types of British colonial indirect rule set up the structural conditions of ethnic inequality and state weakness that facilitate emergence of Maoist control. I address the issue of selection bias, by developing a new instrument for the British choice of indirect rule through princely states, based on the exogenous effect of wars in Europe on British decisions in India. This article reconceptualizes colonial indirect rule and also presents new data on rebel control and precolonial rebellions.

Rebel Capacity and Randomized Combat
Konstantin Sonin, Jarnickae Wilson & Austin Wright
University of Chicago Working Paper, September 2017

Classic theories of counterinsurgency claim rebel forces execute attacks in an unpredictable manner to limit the government’s ability to anticipate and defend against them. We study a model of combat during an irregular insurgency. We test empirical implications of the model using newly declassified military records and granular data on opium production and farmgate prices from Afghanistan. Consistent with our model, we find that rebel capacity influences the technologies of war: as rebel strength increases, it becomes easier to distinguish the within-day timing of attacks from random noise. These findings clarify how the accumulation of resources by armed groups can alter rebel tactics.

Loyalty Can't Be Bought: Explaining Military Defection during Civilian Uprisings against Autocracies
Sara Plana
MIT Working Paper, August 2017

Why do soldiers disobey orders to defend the regime against civilian protestors? Using a mixed-method approach with a time-series cross-sectional large-N analysis and cross- and within-case process-tracing, I test two competing logics: one that claims obedience follows from incentivizing loyalty and another that points to immaterial shared bonds. Contrary to the dominant stream in the literature, I provide evidence that a regime’s efforts to materially incentivize loyalty are not good predictors of whether soldiers will defend the regime in its hour of need. I argue that material incentives tend to be moot when soldiers are faced with the proximate decision of firing on civilians. Instead, other motivations come to the fore — specifically, whether soldiers are more strongly bonded to the society or to the military and which action would be the more socially costly as a result.

Does Performance Matter? Evaluating Political Selection Along the Chinese Administrative Ladder
Pierre Landry, Xiaobo Lü & Haiyan Duan
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Political selection is central to the survival of all regimes. This article evaluates the relative importance of performance and political connection for the advancement of local politicians under authoritarianism. We hypothesize that in a large-scale multilevel polity, economic performance plays a greater role in promotion at lower administrative levels of government than at higher ones, even after controlling for political connections. This dualist strategy allows the ruling elites to achieve economic performance while minimizing the advancement of potentially disloyal challengers. Thus, balancing between loyalty and competence among subordinates enhances regime survival. Our empirical evidence draws on a comprehensive panel dataset of provincial, prefectural, and county-level Communist party secretaries and government executives appointed between 1999 and 2007. We find consistent evidence for our argument under various model specifications. We also explore the heterogeneous effects of performance on promotion given the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) age ineligibility rule for cadre promotion and jurisdiction characteristics.

The Strategic Origins of Electoral Authoritarianism
Michael Miller
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Why do autocrats hold multiparty elections? This article argues that transitions to electoral authoritarianism (EA) follow a strategic calculus in which autocrats balance international incentives to adopt elections against the costs and risks of controlling them. It tests this hypothesis with a multinomial logit model that simultaneously predicts transitions to EA and democracy, using a sample of non-electoral autocracies from 1946–2010. It finds that pro-democratic international leverage – captured by dependence on democracies through trade ties, military alliances, international governmental organizations and aid – predicts EA adoption. Socio-economic factors that make voters easier to control, such as low average income and high inequality, also predict EA transition. In contrast, since democratization entails a loss of power for autocrats, it is mainly predicted by regime weakness rather than international engagement or socio-economic factors. The results demonstrate that different forms of liberalization follow distinct logics, providing insight into autocratic regime dynamics and democracy promotion’s unintended effects.

Beyond Divide and Rule: Weak Dictators, Natural Resources and Civil Conflict
Giacomo De Luca, Petros Sekeris & Juan Vargas
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

We propose a model where weak rulers have incentives to let ethnically divided countries plunge in civil war. Allowing inter-group fighting reduces production - and hence the tax base - but enables the ruler to devote more resources to increasing the tax rate. This mechanism is increasingly salient with larger amounts of natural resources, especially if these are unequally distributed across ethnic groups. We validate the theoretical predictions using cross-country data, and show that our empirical results are robust to controlling for the usual determinants of civil war incidence, and to using various proxies for the ruler's relative weakness and for the presence of natural resources.

Join the Chorus, Avoid the Spotlight: The Effect of Neighborhood and Social Dynamics on Human Rights Organization Shaming
Sam Bell, Chad Clay & Amanda Murdie
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Which countries are likely to be ignored for their human rights abuses? This article focuses on one particular way that cases of human rights abuse might be overlooked by human rights organizations (HROs): the relative visibility of the state’s abusiveness vis-à-vis its geographic and social peers. HROs are more likely to target abusive states that are located in regions with more HRO resources and/or are surrounded by states that demonstrate higher respect for human rights, as these abuses will stand out much more clearly. Further, human rights treaties can be used by abusive states as a form of strategic “social camouflage,” with states trying to minimize the risk of HRO attention by ratifying human rights treaties to look more like their rights-respecting peers. Using a cross-national time-series research design, this article finds much support for the argument: abusive states that “join the chorus” avoid HRO attention.

The Pacification of Elite Lifestyles: State Formation, Elite Reproduction, and the Practice of Hunting in Early Modern England
Jonah Stuart Brundage
Comparative Studies in Society and History, October 2017, Pages 786-817

What explains the remarkable metamorphosis of elites from warrior nobilities into well-mannered aristocrats in early modern Europe? Existing accounts emphasize the coercive force of emerging states or the novel enticements of royal courts. Well suited to the paradigmatic case of early modern France, such arguments fail to explain cases, like England, in which elites developed pacified lifestyles in the absence of a dominant royal court and largely prior to the monopolization of physical force. This essay shows that explaining such cases requires greater attention to the historical variability of elites’ own interests and strategies. I argue that European elites (also) developed pacified lifestyles insofar as they came to reproduce themselves through strategies that operated without their personal use of physical violence (including, but not limited to, royal courts). Such strategies were contingent on varying configurations of inter-elite and elite–non-elite relations. I employ this perspective to explain the marginalization of violent skills and codes in the lifestyles of early modern English elites, focusing empirically on the practice of hunting, a defining ritual of elite lifestyles. The hunting evidence suggests that the landed gentry were the first English elite to develop a pacified lifestyle. Yet the gentry were neither subject to the coercion of a centralized state nor incorporated into a court society. Instead, I show that the gentry — and later, the nobility and monarchy — developed pacified lifestyles because they came to reproduce themselves through legal strategies, the successful performance of which required nonviolent skills and habits.

A two-step theory and test of the oil curse: The conditional effect of oil on democratization
Christian Houle
Democratization, forthcoming

Does oil impede democratization? This article posits that in order to understand the effect of oil on democratization one has to decompose the transition process into two steps: (1) the ending of the authoritarian regime, which initiates the process; and (2) the subsequent establishment of a democracy rather than an autocracy. I argue that oil has different effects on the two phases of the transition process: while oil has contradictory effects on the likelihood that an authoritarian regime fails, it diminishes the likelihood of the establishment of democracy following the failure. Oil’s negative effect is conditional on the breakdown of the authoritarian regime, which itself is unaffected by oil. That is, although oil does not initiate the transition process, it does influence its outcome. Using data on 118 autocracies, I find evidence consistent with this hypothesis.

Varieties of civil war and mass killing: Reassessing the relationship between guerrilla warfare and civilian victimization
Daniel Krcmaric
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming

Why do some civil wars feature the mass killing of civilians while others do not? Recent research answers this question by adopting a ‘varieties of civil war’ approach that distinguishes between guerrilla and conventional civil wars. One particularly influential claim is that guerrilla wars feature more civilian victimization because mass killing is an attractive strategy for states attempting to eliminate the civilian support base of an insurgency. In this article, I suggest that there are two reasons to question this ‘draining the sea’ argument. First, the logic of ‘hearts and minds’ during guerrilla wars implies that protecting civilians – not killing them – is the key to success during counterinsurgency. Second, unpacking the nature of fighting in conventional wars gives compelling reasons to think that they could be particularly deadly for civilians caught in the war’s path. After deriving competing predictions on the relationship between civil war type and mass killing, I offer an empirical test by pairing a recently released dataset on the ‘technology of rebellion’ featured in civil wars with a more nuanced dataset of mass killing than those used in several previous studies. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I find that mass killing onset is more likely to occur during conventional wars than during guerrilla wars.

Democracy Aid and Electoral Accountability
Tobias Heinrich & Matt Loftis
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Although foreign policies often fail to successfully promote democracy, over a decade of empirical research indicates that foreign aid specifically for democracy promotion is remarkably successful at improving the survival and institutional strength of fragile democracies. However, these measures cannot tell us how well democracy aid supports the central promise of democracy: accountable government. Since institutions can be subverted in various ways that undermine accountability, it is vital to know whether democracy aid supports accountability to assess its overall success. We provide evidence for this by analyzing incumbent turnover in elections, following poor economic performance — the economic vote — as a measure of voting to achieve performance accountability. In our analysis of over 1,100 elections in 114 developing countries between 1975 and 2010, we find distinct evidence that increasing receipt of democracy aid is associated with more economic voting. Results are robust to numerous alternative empirical specifications.

GDP Per Capita and Protest Activity: A Quantitative Reanalysis
Andrey Korotayev, Stanislav Bilyuga & Alisa Shishkina
Cross-Cultural Research, forthcoming

Our research suggests that the relation between GDP per capita and sociopolitical destabilization is not characterized by a straightforward negative correlation; it rather has an inverted U-shape. The highest risks are typical for the countries with intermediate values of GDP per capita, not the highest or lowest values. Thus, until a certain value of GDP per capita is reached, economic growth predicts an increase in the risks of sociopolitical destabilization. This positive correlation is particularly strong (r = .94, R2 = .88) and significant for the intensity of antigovernment demonstrations. This correlation can be observed in a very wide interval (up to 20,000 of international 2014 dollars at purchasing power parities [PPPs]). We suggest that it is partially accounted for by the following regularities: (a) GDP growth in authoritarian regimes strengthens the pro-democracy movements, and, consequently, intensifies antigovernment demonstrations; (b) in the GDP per capita interval from the minimum to $20,000, the growth of GDP per capita correlates quite strongly with a declining proportion of authoritarian regimes and a growing proportion of intermediate and democratic regimes; and, finally, (c) GDP growth in the given diapason increases the level of education of the population, which, in turn, leads to a higher intensity of antigovernment demonstrations.

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