Bryan Caplan  

Tullock on The Unpredictability of Dictatorial Succession

Politics for Kids... Do They Care?...
From Tullock's chapter on "Becoming a Dictator" in Autocracy:
Economists know the so-called random walk hypothesis regarding the stock market, which holds that all available information is already incorporated in the market price, with the result that the price or its recent movements have no predictive value.  Something vaguely like this is important in [dictatorial successions].  The dictator probably knows as much as anybody else does about his immediate inferiors.  Thus, if one of them appears to be in a position where he might be able to overthrow the dictator, this probably indicates that the dictator is about to get rid of him.

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COMMENTS (6 to date)
dilly writes:

-Something vaguely like this-?

In the sense that dogs are vaguely like dinosaurs in that they both breathe and have four legs (except the ones that fly or swim). Buildings are vaguely like cars in that they can both be made of metal.

Caplan recently posted that, 'I am all-in for Gordon Tullock, my Nobel-worthy colleague.' If observations such as this make one Nobel worthy in the world of economics, well, I guess the economics prize now will be taken about as seriously as the Peace Prize.

RE Dilly:

Tullock is making some optimistic assumptions about the knowledge available to the dictator, but otherwise the analogy is quite close.

R. Richard Schweitzer writes:


Do you read? Read what?

Let us suggest you become at least familiar with the "Selected Works of Gordon Tullock" 10 Vols.
Liberty Fund.

Tullock, as much as Buchanan, developed the thinking in those principles for which the latter received a Nobel.

Tullock is a fomenter of thought, and in some cases uses those similies which are easily comprehended; in other cases he uses the principles of mathematics, which require more depth of thought.

How, if at all, do you convey your thinking to stimulate the thinking of others?

steve writes:

I think the position of a dictator is more precarious. with the possible exception of extraordinarily charismatic individuals, I think a dictator is always in a position where one or more of his subordinates is in a position to overthrow him. A dictator must choose his friends more carefully then the rest of us.

steve writes:

Anectdotally, I think the paranoid dictator seeing enemies everywhere is something of a cliche because it is true.

Bob Murphy writes:

I don't think Dilly is necessarily being a troll, just (perhaps) a bit too rude. I too was initially puzzled as to the relation between Tullock's observation and the EMH.

I think all Tullock means is that there can't be a sure-fire way to become dictator, just like there can't be a sure-fire arbitrage opportunity. The EMH says the latter would be competed away, because somebody else would've noticed the same opportunity you did. Tullock says the former would be immediately rectified once the dictator spotted the same vulnerability you did.

So, if you think you've spotted an obviously undervalued warrant to buy, then there's probably a pending takeover of which you're ignorant. And if you think there's obviously a bomb to place at the head of the table to become dictator, there's probably a pending arrest that evening of which you're ignorant.

I want to know what Tullock thinks of circumcision.

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