Why Do Autocrats Disclose? Economic Transparency and Inter-elite Politics in the Shadow of Mass Unrest

James R. Hollyer, Bryan Rosendorff, James Raymond Vreeland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Autocratic governments hold a preference for opacity. Autocracies are less transparent than democracies and a closed informational environment preserves autocratic regimes from mass unrest. Yet, autocracies vary widely in the extent to which they disclose economic information. In this article, we offer an explanation for why some autocrats choose to disclose. We contend that, paradoxically, some autocratic leaders may benefit from increasing the capacity of the populace to mobilize. In so doing, autocratic leaders threaten rival members of the elite, reducing the risk of elite challenges and increasing their freedom of maneuver. We contend that transparency acts as one mechanism toward these ends. We formalize these intuitions and demonstrate empirically that leaders in transparent autocracies enjoy a reduced hazard of removal via coup relative to their opaque counterparts. Personalistic dictators and entrenched autocrats—who suffer the smallest risk of sanctioning by their elites—are particularly unlikely to disclose information.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
    DOIs
    StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

    Fingerprint

    transparency
    elite
    leader
    politics
    information economics
    economics
    intuition
    regime
    democracy
    Economics
    Elites
    Transparency
    Government
    Dictator
    Intuition
    Opacity
    Economic information
    Democracy
    Hazard

    Keywords

    • autocracy
    • coup
    • political economy
    • political survival
    • protest
    • transparency

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations

    Cite this

    Why Do Autocrats Disclose? Economic Transparency and Inter-elite Politics in the Shadow of Mass Unrest. / Hollyer, James R.; Rosendorff, Bryan; Vreeland, James Raymond.

    In: Journal of Conflict Resolution, 01.01.2018.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    @article{8b90c4b2ba784671a70547914307dbb8,
    title = "Why Do Autocrats Disclose? Economic Transparency and Inter-elite Politics in the Shadow of Mass Unrest",
    abstract = "Autocratic governments hold a preference for opacity. Autocracies are less transparent than democracies and a closed informational environment preserves autocratic regimes from mass unrest. Yet, autocracies vary widely in the extent to which they disclose economic information. In this article, we offer an explanation for why some autocrats choose to disclose. We contend that, paradoxically, some autocratic leaders may benefit from increasing the capacity of the populace to mobilize. In so doing, autocratic leaders threaten rival members of the elite, reducing the risk of elite challenges and increasing their freedom of maneuver. We contend that transparency acts as one mechanism toward these ends. We formalize these intuitions and demonstrate empirically that leaders in transparent autocracies enjoy a reduced hazard of removal via coup relative to their opaque counterparts. Personalistic dictators and entrenched autocrats—who suffer the smallest risk of sanctioning by their elites—are particularly unlikely to disclose information.",
    keywords = "autocracy, coup, political economy, political survival, protest, transparency",
    author = "Hollyer, {James R.} and Bryan Rosendorff and Vreeland, {James Raymond}",
    year = "2018",
    month = "1",
    day = "1",
    doi = "10.1177/0022002718792602",
    language = "English (US)",
    journal = "Journal of Conflict Resolution",
    issn = "0022-0027",
    publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Why Do Autocrats Disclose? Economic Transparency and Inter-elite Politics in the Shadow of Mass Unrest

    AU - Hollyer, James R.

    AU - Rosendorff, Bryan

    AU - Vreeland, James Raymond

    PY - 2018/1/1

    Y1 - 2018/1/1

    N2 - Autocratic governments hold a preference for opacity. Autocracies are less transparent than democracies and a closed informational environment preserves autocratic regimes from mass unrest. Yet, autocracies vary widely in the extent to which they disclose economic information. In this article, we offer an explanation for why some autocrats choose to disclose. We contend that, paradoxically, some autocratic leaders may benefit from increasing the capacity of the populace to mobilize. In so doing, autocratic leaders threaten rival members of the elite, reducing the risk of elite challenges and increasing their freedom of maneuver. We contend that transparency acts as one mechanism toward these ends. We formalize these intuitions and demonstrate empirically that leaders in transparent autocracies enjoy a reduced hazard of removal via coup relative to their opaque counterparts. Personalistic dictators and entrenched autocrats—who suffer the smallest risk of sanctioning by their elites—are particularly unlikely to disclose information.

    AB - Autocratic governments hold a preference for opacity. Autocracies are less transparent than democracies and a closed informational environment preserves autocratic regimes from mass unrest. Yet, autocracies vary widely in the extent to which they disclose economic information. In this article, we offer an explanation for why some autocrats choose to disclose. We contend that, paradoxically, some autocratic leaders may benefit from increasing the capacity of the populace to mobilize. In so doing, autocratic leaders threaten rival members of the elite, reducing the risk of elite challenges and increasing their freedom of maneuver. We contend that transparency acts as one mechanism toward these ends. We formalize these intuitions and demonstrate empirically that leaders in transparent autocracies enjoy a reduced hazard of removal via coup relative to their opaque counterparts. Personalistic dictators and entrenched autocrats—who suffer the smallest risk of sanctioning by their elites—are particularly unlikely to disclose information.

    KW - autocracy

    KW - coup

    KW - political economy

    KW - political survival

    KW - protest

    KW - transparency

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85052583119&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85052583119&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1177/0022002718792602

    DO - 10.1177/0022002718792602

    M3 - Article

    AN - SCOPUS:85052583119

    JO - Journal of Conflict Resolution

    JF - Journal of Conflict Resolution

    SN - 0022-0027

    ER -