10. The Natural State and the Violence Trap - Readings
- Chapter 1 in North, Wallis, Webb, Weingast (2013) In the Shadow of Violence: Politics, Economics, and the Problems of Development
- Econtalk (2006): “Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on the Political Economy of Power”
This chapter (from an edited volume of essays) outlines the theory of what North, Wallis, and Weingast call “limited-access orders” (LAOs) in contrast to “open access orders.” Their theory is fully spelled out in the excellent book Violence and Social Orders (2009), where they alternatively call limited access orders “natural states.” This will give you an overview of the difference, and, importantly, how LAOs work, and why all societies either once were LAOs (but have since developed into open access orders), or remain LAOs.
The podcast is with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on EcontalkOne of the original episodes back in 2006!
talking about his book (with coauthors), The Logic of Political Survival. It is a wide-ranging conversation, but centers on his “Selectorate theory,” and how this model explains both autocratic and democratic behavior. Some development concepts, including foreign aid, are discussed. Very eye-opening. This is an alternative to assigning more book chapters or papers. See the description of each below.
- Cox, North, and Weingast (2015), “The Violence Trap”
- Econtalk (2013): “Barry Weingast on the Violence Trap”
The podcast (and the paper it is based off of) is Barry Weingast on Econtalk talking about the “violence trap.” This idea is strongly connected to North, Wallis, and Weingast’s LAOs/Natural State framework. Reforms of the political and economic system that might improve economic development (and GDP/capita) and lead to a more open access order are often prevented by ruling elites. It is neither in their interest to open up, and it might provoke chaos, disorder, and violence in a society (think Olson’s roving bandits). Such a tumultous outcome, while it has a chance of leading to democracy and wealth, is a worse outcome than the existing system, as unfair, inefficient, and peverse as it may be. This is the violence trap.
- Bueno de Mesquita, Smith, Siverson, and Morrow (2005) The Logic of Political Survival
- North, Wallis, and Weingast (2009) Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History
- Tullock (1971), “The Paradox of Revolution”
- Kuran (1989), “Sparks and Prarie Fires: A Theory of Unanticipated Political Revolution”
Questions to Read For:
- What do economists miss when they focus only on “the light side of the force” i.e. voluntary exchange and trade? What can we learn from studying violence and coercion as well?
- We pretty much know what policies and institutions generate prosperity (property rights, rule of law, etc). Leaders of developing countries probably know this as well (or can quickly find out). Why don’t they implement them? Or, more accurately, what would happen if they implement them?
- What is the difference between the State and the Mafia?
- How does a Limited Access Order (LAO, also called “natural state”) function?
- What are the differences between a Limited Access Order and an Open Access Order? How does one transition to the other?
- Successful societies “wage peace.” Explain how this is an apt summary for the politics of a LAO/natural state.
- Bueno de Mesquita’s “selectorate” theory is also famous for a much more complex (yet verifiable!) application of Olson’s logic. What is the selectorate? How is the selectorate different for democracies and non-democracies? What is the “winning/dominant coalition”?
- How does the allocation of public goods vs. private goods (i.e. rents for cronies) differ based on the selectorate?
- Is a dictator all-powerful? Why or why not?
- Why does it commonly appear that support for an oppressive regime is higher than it actual is?
- Why are there few (or no?) success stories of popular revolutions that overthrew an autocratic government and replaced it with a democratic government?