DP4777 Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships

Author(s): Georgy Egorov, Konstantin Sonin
Publication Date: December 2004
Keyword(s): dictatorship, formal political theory, principal agent
JEL(s): D72, P16
Programme Areas: Institutions and Economic Performance
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=4777

The possibility of treason by a close associate has been a nightmare of most dictators throughout history. Better informed viziers are also better able to discriminate among potential plotters, and this makes them more risky subordinates for the dictator. To avoid this, dictators ? especially those which are weak and vulnerable ? sacrifice the competence of their agents, hiring mediocre but loyal subordinates. One reason why democracies generally witness more talented people in the government is the dictator?s inability to commit to the optimal (less than the capital) punishment for those who unsuccessfully plotted to remove him from power. Furthermore, any use of incentive schemes by a dictator is limited by the fact that rewards are conditional on dictator?s own willingness to keep his promises, while punishments are conditional on dictator?s own survival. We model a principal-agent game between a dictator and his (probably, few) viziers both in static and dynamic perspectives. The dynamic model allows us to focus on the succession problem the insecure dictators face.