Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
Chapter 6: Autocrats and democrats
Although autocracies are not as common as they once were (Huntington 1991), their study remains a timely topic for several reasons. First, there is ample scholarly concern about the poor quality of newly emerging democracies exhibiting various authoritarian tendencies (Hite and Cesarini 2004). Second, the decisions of some modern autocracies, such as China, North Korea, and Iran, among others, can have major economic and political repercussions at a regional or global scale. A systematic approach to the study of autocratic government is therefore essential for a contemporary understanding of the politics of developing democracies and key international players. Interestingly, the study of autocracies or dictatorships is a relatively new endeavor within the public choice tradition. Indeed, a peculiar feature of the public choice literature has long been its fascination with the study of democratic institutions. Conversely, the broader literature on political development and dictatorships within political science largely has ignored the conceptual contributions of public choice scholars. As a matter of fact, seminal contributions to the political economy of dictatorship first originated in economics and only, until very recently, have they resonated and helped shape an emerging choice-theoretic literature in political science.
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