Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Steve Chan

Second Advisor

Aysegul Aydin

Third Advisor

David S. Brown


Under what conditions can leaders use government spending to reduce the incidence of coup d'état and civil war? My dissertation addresses this question by considering when leaders might use public goods (public health, education, etc.) and private goods (graft, elite pacts, etc.) to co-opt potential revolutionaries and coup plotters. The dissertation begins with a formal model of the strategic environment in which leaders decide to allocate resources and challengers opt whether to fight the regime (Chapter 2). The model is solved for two sets of hypotheses that are tested with quantitative analyses in subsequent chapters. The third chapter turns to the spending hypotheses and shows that the leaders of weak regimes alter government spending to placate their most likely challengers. Weak exclusive regimes increase public goods provision while they are vulnerable to popular challenges, while weak inclusive regimes increase private goods provision to purchase the support of powerful elites. Chapter 4 evaluates the stability hypotheses to determine whether these shifts in spending successfully reduce the likelihood of coup and civil war. The findings are mixed. Weak and exclusive regimes can reduce the likelihood of civil conflict by more than 50% by increasing public goods provision from one standard deviation below to one standard deviation above the mean. However, increased private goods provision does not offer the same benefits for inclusive regimes. Chapter 5 uses a nested analysis case comparison of two transitional sub-Saharan democracies to better understand how weak inclusive governments can remain stable without shifting money from public goods provision toward elite interests. The project results in three major contributions. First, governments shift public and private goods provision as they become more or less vulnerable to domestic extra-institutional challenges. Second, benevolence pays for the leaders of exclusive regimes. When these regimes are weak, there exists a very strong positive relationship between public goods provision and regime stability. Finally, the leaders of inclusive regimes need not decrease public goods provision to reduce the likelihood of coup and civil war, but some democratic institutions are more conducive to both social welfare and regime stability than others.