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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Public Good Provision by Dictatorships: A Survey


All dictatorships provide public goods, but levels of provision generally differ from those found in otherwise similar democracies. Some theoretical treatments of this phenomenon emphasize differences in the degree of monopoly power enjoyed by dictators versus leaders of governments, while others stress differences in the size of the group a dictatorial versus democratic government leader must satisfy in order to remain in office. Empirical analysis is still at an early stage and has been oriented mainly toward determining the magnitude of the governance effect on public good provision, rather than devising tests that would distinguish between alternative theories of dictatorial behavior. While the empirical record is far from unanimous, the weight of evidence indicates that dictatorships under-provide public goods relative to democracies and that the estimated effects are both large in magnitude and statistically significant. JEL Classifications: H1, D72, H11

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