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Helping Hand or Grabbing Hand? State Bureaucracy and Privatization Effectiveness


Why have economic reforms aimed at reducing the role of the state been successful in some cases but not others? Are reform failures the consequence of leviathan states that hinder private economic activity, or of weak states unable to implement policies effectively and provide a supportive institutional environment? We explore these questions in a study of privatization in postcommunist Russia. Taking advantage of large regional variation in the size of public administrations, and employing a multilevel research design that controls for preprivatization selection in the estimation of regional privatization effects, we examine the relationship between state bureaucracy and the impact of privatization on firm productivity. We find that privatization is more effective in regions with relatively large bureaucracies. Our analysis suggests that this effect is driven by the impact of bureaucracy on the postprivatization business environment, with better institutional support and less corruption when bureaucracies are large.

Corresponding author
J. David Brown is Reader in Finance, School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, United Kingdom (
John S. Earle is Senior Economist, Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Professor, Department of Economics, Central European University, 300 South Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007 (
Scott Gehlbach is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Research Associate, Centre for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR), 110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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