Political Entry, Public Policies, and the Economy

with Kevin K. Tsui


This paper presents a theory of competition for political leadership between incumbent leaders and their challengers in which the possible equilibrium political market structures range from pure monopoly (unchallenged dictatorship) to perfectly competitive (ideal democracy). Leaders are constrained by the threat of "entry" or their ability to tax (or both), so that regimes with no challengers may nonetheless implement policies in the public interest. We offer economic interpretations of why democratic countries are associated with higher wages, why resource abundant countries tend to be nondemocratic, and how technological change affects political development. By focusing on the incentives for political entry, we show how trade sanctions and other policies designed to promote democracy may actually have the unintended consequences of discouraging political competition.

This paper can be found at NBER.
© copyright 2009 by Casey B. Mulligan.