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Selectorate Theory

Political Science 3103:


Interchangeables, Influentials,
and Essentials

Shiny, Happy People


The picture we paint will not be pretty. It will not
strengthen hope for humankinds benevolence and
altruism. But we believe it will be the truth and it
will point the way to a brighter future. After all,
even if politics is nothing more than a game that
leaders play, if only we learn the rules, it becomes a
game we can win.
BdM and Smith

Shiny, Happy People II


What matters is how you play the game. It is a
question of skill the skills of a regime versus the
skills of its opponents. The side that engages in the
best preparation and demonstrates the most unity
and discipline is most likely to win out.
Dobson

Who knows best?


We look at each case and conclude they are
different, uncharacteristic anomalies. Yet they are
held together by the logic of politics, the rules
ruling rulers. The pundits of politics and the
nabobs of the news have left us ignorant of these
these rules.
BdM and Smith

Who knows best? II


So, when the revolution does come . . most
experts, academics, and policy makers write it off as
a fluke, a rare or unique circumstance unlikely to be
repeated. There isnt an expert who has ever
predicted one of these [revolutions]. In fact, they
have been in a state of denial until the moment
theyve happened.
Dobson

Variations in Regime Type


One important lesson we will learn is that where politics are
concerned, ideology, nationality, and culture doesnt matter all
that much.
!

Every type of politics could be addressed from the point of


view of leaders trying to survive.
!

We shall see that how the structure of government and the


economy works explains variation in how many . . . rights
people have . . . whether the people take the streets . . . whether
they can succeed in orchestrating change.
(more on this next week)

The Rules to Rule By


Rule

#1
Rule #2
Rule #3
Rule #4
!

Random

number generation

Rule #1

Politics

is about getting and keeping power

It

is not about the general welfare

Rule #2
Political

survival is best assured by depending on


few people to attain and retain office.
!

Dictators

typically stay in power longer than


democrats.

Rule #3
It

is best if the dictators cronies are kept aware that


there is a large pool of people waiting outside
hoping to replace them.
!

This

gives the ruler greater taxing and spending


discretion.

Rule #4
Freedom

to tax at very high rates breeds resistance.

The

structure of government and the economy


explain whether people have the rights necessary
for taking to the street and whether this results in
change.

Normative v. Positive Theory

Normative:

how the world ought to work.

Positive:

how the world actually works.

Selectorate Theory
The

Nominal Selectorate:

Define

at a conceptual

Alternate

The

Real Selectorate:

Define

at a conceptual

Alternate

The

term

term

Winning Coalition

Define

at a conceptual

Alternate

term

Selectorate Theory
The

Nominal Selectorate:

Every

person who has at least some legal say in choosing their leader

Interchangeables

The

Real Selectorate:

The

group that actually chooses the leader

Influentials

The

Winning Coalition

The

people whose support is essential to if a leader is to survive in


office

Essentials

One (of many) Way(s) to Define


Regime Types
The

relative size of the Nominal Selectorate


(Interchangeables); the Real Selectorate
(Influentials); and the Winning Coalition
(Essentials).
!

Can

you define dictatorship in these Terms?

Democracies?

One (of many) Way(s) to Define


Regime Types

Monarchy
all

three groups are quite small

Dictatorship:
particularly

small group of of essentials

they

are drawn from a very large group of interchangeables

and

a relatively small batch of influentials

Democracy:
very

large number of essentials

very

large group of interchangeables

influentials

almost as big as the interchangeables

Some Implications
of Three Dimensions
If

leaders can change the size of the dimensions,


they can change the world.
Impact on policy choices:
Where

the number of essentials is large, the provision of public


goods is most efficient.

Where

the number of essentials is small, private goods (for that


group) make the most sense.

Leaders

with large winning coalitions find it harder


to enrich themselves.

Rules Revisited
1. Keep your winning coalition (essentials) as small
as possible.
2. Keep your nominal selectorate
(interchangeables) as large as possible.
3. Control the flow of revenue.
4. Pay your key supporters just enough to keep
them loyal.
5. Dont take money out of your supporters
pockets to make the peoples lives better.

Do they work in democracies?


1. Keep your winning coalition (essentials) as small as
possible: gerrymandering.
2. Keep your nominal selectorate (interchangeables) as
large as possible: immigration
3. Control the flow of revenue: battles over the tax code
4. Pay your key supporters just enough to keep them
loyal: earmarks
5. Dont take money out of your supporters pockets to
make the peoples lives better: opposition to national
health care

At Least Three Puzzles


1. Democrats offer their citizens more peace and
prosperity than autocrats. Yet autocrats last in
office about twice as long.
2. Institutional reform can be tough to explain.
Why change from the only thing you have ever
experienced?
3. Why do powerful countries promote (or
impose) democracy in some countries but not
others?

All Leaders Must Make at Least 3 Choices

1. What should the tax rate be (and this affects


how hard people work)?
2. How should they best spend these revenues (to
keep themselves in power)?
3. On a related note, what should be the private/
public mix of the goods provided?

Why focus so much on political survival?


All

(most) politicians want to remain in power.

All

incumbents face rivals.

Even

if we are interested in the civic mindedness


of leaders, selection institutions can help us explain
variations across leaders.

Threats to Political Survival


Domestic
Financial

Crises

Coordination
Distribution
Imbalance
!

Foreign

in Private v. Public Goods Provision

Summary of the Players


Residents

(N)
Selectorate (S)
Personal
Special

Origin (birthplace, lineage, etc.)

Proficiency (Skills, Beliefs, and/or Knowledge)

Wealth
Gender

and/or Age

Winning

Coalition (W)
Leader/Leadership (L)
(Potential)

Challenger(s)

The

importance of W/S

The

Loyalty Norm

Affinity