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The dictator effect: how long years in office affect economic development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2014

Department of Social and Economic History, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Department of Social and Economic History, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands


This paper contributes to the growing literature on the links between political regimes and economic development by studying the effects of years in office on economic development. The hypothesis is that dictators who stay in office for a long time period will find it increasingly difficult to carry out sound economic policies. We argue that such economic policies are the result of information asymmetries inherent to dictatorships (known as the ‘dictator dilemma’) and of changes in the personality of dictators (known as the ‘winner effect’). We call the combination of these two terms the ‘dictator effect’. We present evidence to suggest that long years in office impacts on economic growth (which is reduced), inflation (which increases) and the quality of institutions (which deteriorates). The negative effect of long years of tenure (i.e. the ‘dictator effect’) is particularly strong in young states and in Africa and the Near East.

Research Article
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2014 

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