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Do Rights to Resistance Discipline the Elites? An Experiment on the Threat of Overthrow

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Chatziathanasiou,  Konstantin
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Hippel,  Svenja
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Kurschilgen,  Michael
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Chatziathanasiou, K., Hippel, S., & Kurschilgen, M. (2020). Do Rights to Resistance Discipline the Elites? An Experiment on the Threat of Overthrow.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6F20-9
Abstract
The threat of overthrow stabilizes a constitution because it disciplines the elites. This is the main rationale behind rights to resistance. In this paper, we test this conjecture experimentally. We model a society in which players can produce wealth by solving a coordination problem. Coordination is facilitated through a pre-game status-ranking. Compliance with the status hierarchy yields an efficient yet inequitable payoff distribution, in which a player’s wealth is determined by her pre-game status. Between treatments, we vary (a) whether overthrows – which reset the status-ranking via collective disobedience – are possible or not, and (b) whether voluntary redistributive transfers – which high-status players can use to appease the low-status players – are available or not. In contrast to established thinking we find that, on average, the threat of overthrow does not have a stabilizing effect as high-status players fail to provide sufficient redistribution to prevent overthrows. However, if an overthrow brings generous players into high-status positions, groups stabilize and prosper. This suggests an alternative rationale for rights to resistance.