Leader Survival, Revolutions, and the Nature of Government Finance

Bruce Bueno De Mesquita, Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Leaders face multiple threats to their political survival. In addition to surviving the threats to tenure from within the existing political systems, which is modeled using Bueno de Mesquita and colleagues' (2003) selectorate theory, leaders risk being deposed through revolutions and coups. To ameliorate the threat of revolution, leaders can either increase public goods provisions to buy off potential revolutionaries or contract the provision of those public goods, such as freedom of assembly, transparency, and free press, which enable revolutionaries to coordinate. Which response a leader chooses depends upon existing institutions and the structure of government finances. These factors also affect the likelihood and direction of institutional change. Tests of leader survival indicate that revolutionary threats increase the likelihood of deposition for nondemocratic leaders. Leaders with access to resources such as foreign aid or natural resource rents are best equipped to survive these threats and avoid the occurrence of these threats in the first place.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)936-950
    Number of pages15
    JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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