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

James R. Hollyer, B. Peter Rosendorff, James Raymond Vreeland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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)
    Pages (from-to)1488-1516
    Number of pages29
    JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


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

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Business, Management and Accounting
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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