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Democratic Backsliding and Autocratic Consolidation

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (CST)

Marriott Rivercenter, Conference Room 13
Hosted By: Association for Comparative Economic Studies & Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics
  • Chair: Scott Gehlbach, University of Chicago

Self-Enforcing Power Dynamics: A Model of Power Politics in Weak States

Zhaotian Luo
University of Chicago


This paper presents a model of self-enforcing power dynamics between a "ruler" and an "opponent," in which the power of one side is defined by the probability to defeat the other side in a conflict. The ruler decides how the spoils of ruling are distributed and the opponent sometimes is able to start a conflict against the ruler. When the opponent fails to pose a threat, the ruler may take steps to increase power. The ability of the opponent to find opportunities to start a conflict evolves over time depending on the current power of the ruler. The question is whether in equilibrium the ruler would share power with the opponent, refraining from further increasing power after gaining a satisfactory level and whether would the ruler rule peacefully, when, and why (not).

An Events-Based Approach to Understanding Democratic Erosion

Hannah Baron
Tulane University
Robert Blair
Brown University
Jessica Gottlieb
University of Houston
Laura Paler
American University


In this paper we introduce and demonstrate the utility of a new event dataset on democratic erosion around the world. Through case studies of Turkey and Brazil, we show that our Democratic Erosion Event Dataset (DEED) can help resolve debates about the extent to which democracy is backsliding based on prominent cross-national indicators, focusing in particular on the V-Dem and Little and Meng (L&M) indices. V-Dem suggests that democracies are deteriorating worldwide; L&M argue that this is an artifact of subjectivity and coder bias, and that more "objective" indicators reveal little to no global democratic backsliding in recent years. Using DEED, we show that objective indices may underestimate the extent of democratic erosion while subjective indices may overestimate it. Our analyses illustrate the ways that DEED can complement existing indices by illuminating the nature and dynamics of democratic erosion as it actually occurs on the ground.

Shaping Institutions

William Fuchs
University of Texas-Austin
Satoshi Fukuda
Bocconi University


We propose a simple model of the evolution of institutions, where leaders’ actions have a persistent effect by shaping the norms of the institutions they lead. This can lead to different long-run behavior even for institutions with the same formal rules. The early history of leaders plays a crucial role in determining which outcome prevails. Every period, leaders decide to respect or abuse their position. Respect strengthens the norms while abuse weakens them. Leaders’ type and current norms determine the benefit/cost of abusing the position. Norms also determine the replacement probability of leaders. We elucidate democratic backsliding and corporate-board capturing.
JEL Classifications
  • L0 - General
  • P0 - General