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Poverty, the Coup Trap, and the Seizure of Executive Power

  • John B. Londregan (a1) and Keith T. Poole (a1)
Abstract

The transfer of power through the use of military force is a commonplace event in world affairs. Although no two coups d'etat are alike, they all have a common denominator: poverty. We analyze political and economic data from 121 countries during the period 1950–1982 and find that the probability of a government's being overthrown by a coup is significantly influenced by the level of economic well-being. Thus, even authoritarian governments have powerful incentives to promote economic growth, not out of concern for the welfare of their citizens, but because poor economic performance may lead to their removal by force. When the simultaneity of low income and coups is accounted for, we find that the aftereffects of a coup include a heritage of political instability in the form of an increased likelihood of further coups. Although the effect of income on coups is pronounced, we find little evidence of feedback from coups to income growth.

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1 See, for example, Bienen, Henry, ed., The Military Intervenes: Case Studies in Political Development (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1968); and Decalo, Samuel, Coups and Army Rule in Africa (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).

2 Luttwak, Edward, Coup d' Etat: A Practical Handbook (New York: Knopf, 1969); Finer, Samuel E., The Man on Horseback (London: Pall Mall, 1962).

3 Zuk, Gary and Thompson, William R., “The Post-coup Military Spending Question: A Pooled Cross-Sectional Time Series Analysis,” American Political Science Review 76 (March 1982), 6074.

4 Jackman, Robert W., “Politicians in Uniform: Military Governments and Social Change in the Third World,” American Political Science Review 70 (December 1976), 1078–97; O'Kane, Rosemary, “A Probabilistic Approach to the Causes of Coups d'Etat,” British Journal of Political Science ii (July 1981), 287308; O'Kane, Rosemary, “Towards an Examination of the General Causes of Coups d'Etat,” European Journal of Political Research 11 (March 1983), 2744; McGowan, Pat and Johnson, Thomas H., “African Military Coups d'Etat and Under-development: A Quantitative Historical Analysis,” Journal of Modern African Studies 22 (December 1984), 633–66; Johnson, Thomas H., Slater, Robert O., and McGowan, Pat, “Explaining African Military Coups d'Etat, i960–1982,” American Political Science Review 78 (September 1984), 622–40.

5 Huntington, Samuel P., Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 41.

6 Olson, Mancur, “Rapid Growth as a Destabilizing Force,” Journal of Economic History 23 (December 1963), 529–52.

7 Needier, Martin C., “Political Development and Military Intervention in Latin America,” American Political Science Review 60 (September 1966), 616–26, at 617.

8 Huntington (fn. 5), 41.

9 Finer (fn. 2).

10 McGowan and Johnson (fn. 4), 639; O'Kane (fn. 4, 1983), 34.

11 Bienen, Henry and Walle, Nicolas Van De, “Time and Power in Africa,” American Political Science Review 83 (March 1989), 1934, at 26, 30.

12 This information was made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI. The data for the World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators III, 1948–1982 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), were originally collected by Charles Lewis Taylor. Neither the collector of the original data nor the Consortium bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.

13 Summers, Robert and Heston, Alan, “A New Set of International Comparisons of Real Product and Prices: Estimates for 130 Countries, 1950–1985” The Review of Income and Wealth 34 (April 1988), 125.

14 Rosenbloom, Mort, Coups and Earthquakes: Reporting the Worldfor America (New York: Harper & Row, 1979).

15 A cogent discussion of these issues in relation to the Summers and Heston data is contained in Lucas, Robert E., “On the Mechanics of Economic Development,” Journal of Monetary Economics 22 (July 1988), 342, at 3–4.

16 Efron, Bradley, “Bootstrap Methods: Another Look at the Jack-Knife,” Annals of Statistics 7 (January 1979), 126.

17 Needier (fn. 7), 617.

18 Lipset, Seymour Martin, “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 53 (March 1959), 69105, at 75–77.

19 Jackman (fn. 4), 1084; O'Kane (fn. 4, 1983), 34; Johnson, Slater, and McGowan (fn. 4), 635; McGowan and Johnson (fn. 4), 658.

20 Engle, Robert F., Hendry, David F., and Richard, Jean-François, “Exogeneity,” Econometrica 51 (March 1983), 277304, at 280.

21 O'Kane (fn. 4, 1981), 289–96.

22 McGowan and Johnson (fn. 4), 652–60.

23 Cf. the discussion in Finer (fn. 2), 154–57, in which he describes the specialized Spanish vocabulary developed in Latin America for coups d'état.

24 Bienen and Van De Walle (fn. 11), 30–31.

25 Bienen and Van De Walle, “Of Time and Power,” mimeo (Princeton: Princeton University, 1989), chap. 5, pp. 24 and 25, and Table 8.

26 Granger, C.W.J., “Investigating Causal Relations by Econometric Models and Cross-Spectral Methods,” Econometrica 37 (July 1969), 424–38; Engle, Hendry, and Richard (fn. 20), 280.

27 Zuk and Thompson (fn. 3), 65.

28 Dickey, David A. and Fuller, Wayne A., “Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root,” Econometrica 49 (July 1981), 1057–72.

29 Barro, Robert J., “A Cross-Country Study of Growth, Saving, and Government,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series 2855 (February 1989), 27.

30 See Marriott, F.H.C. and Pope, J. A., “Bias in the Estimation of Autocorrelations,” Bio-metrika 41 (December 1954), 390402; and Kendall, M. G., “Note on Bias in the Estimation of Autocorrelation,” Biometrika 41 (December 1954), 403–4.

31 McGowan and Johnson (fn. 4), 655.

32 Barro (fn. 29), 12–17.

33 See Harvey, A. C., The Econometric Analysis of Time Series (Oxford: Phillip Allan, 1981), 6773, for discussion of Seemingly Unrelated Regression Equations.

34 Heckman, James J., “Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System,” Econometrica 46 (July 1978), 931–59.

35 Using the definition given by Engle, Hendry, and Richard (fn. 20), 280.

36 Ibid.

37 Jackman (fn. 4); O'Kane (fn. 4, 1981 and 1983); McGowan and Johnson (fn. 4); Johnson, Slater, and McGowan (fn. 4).

38 Rothenberg, Thomas J., “Efficient Estimation with a priori Information,” Cowles Foundation Monograph 23 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), provides a comprehensive discussion of identification in models with endogenous explanatory variables.

39 Newey, Whitney K., “Efficient Estimation of Limited Dependent Variable Models with Endogenous Explanatory Variables,” Journal of Econometrics 36 (November 1987), 231–50.

40 Ibid. See Appendix.

41 Engle, Hendry, and Richard (fn. 20), 280.

42 Olson (fn. 6).

43 Finer (fn. 2).

44 Engle, Hendry, and Richard (fn. 20), 280.

45 McCallum, Bennett, “The Political Business Cycle: An Empirical Test,” Southern Economic Journal 44 (January 1978), 504–15.

46 Alesina, Alberto, “Macroeconomics and Politics,” in Fisher, Stanley, ed., National Bureau of Economic Research Macroeconomics Annual 1988 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989).

47 Hausman, J. A., “Specification Tests in Econometrics,” Econometrica 46 (November 1978), 1251–71.

48 For discussion of this problem, see Nickell, Stephen, “Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects,” Econometrica 49 (November 1981), 1417–26; see also the discussion by Chamberlin, Gary, “Panel Data,” in Grilliches, Zvi and Intrilligator, M., eds., The Handbook of Econometrics: Volume II (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1983), 12481318, at 1256.

49 Huntington (fn. 5), 41.

50 Jackman, Robert W., “Cross-Sectional Statistical Research and the Study of Comparative Politics,” American Journal of Political Science 29 (February 1985), 161–82, at 169.

* The helpful comments of Alberto Alesina, Jim Alt, Howard Rosenthal, and participants in seminars at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Western Ontario, and the National Bureau of Economic Research are gratefully acknowledged. We also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of John Londregan's work by BP America.

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World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
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