Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 16 > Issue 3

Protest Puzzles: Tullock's Paradox, Hong Kong Experiment, and the Strength of Weak States

Mehdi Shadmehr, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina, USA, mshadmeh@gmail.com
Suggested Citation
Mehdi Shadmehr (2021), "Protest Puzzles: Tullock's Paradox, Hong Kong Experiment, and the Strength of Weak States", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 16: No. 3, pp 245-264. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00019038

Publication Date: 13 Jul 2021
© 2021 M. Shadmehr
Economic theory,  Public economics,  Civil conflict,  Comparative politics,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Political economy,  Social movements
Tullock's paradoxHong Kong experimentproteststrategic complementsstrategic substitutespivotality


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In this article:
Benchmark: Standard Models of Revolution 
A Model of Pivotal Revolutionaries 
The Strength of Weak States 
Appendix: Proofs 


Tullock's (1971) Paradox of Revolution uses an Olsonian logic to conclude that revolutions should not happen in large societies. et al.'s (2019) Hong Kong Experiment shows that, in sharp contrast to the literature that models protest as a coordination problem, actions can be strategic substitutes. We develop a model to address these standing puzzles, and investigate its empirical implications. We show that when the movement's goal is modest, free-riding concerns dominate the citizens' interactions, making their actions strategic substitutes. By contrast, when the movement's goal is to topple the regime, coordination concerns dominate, and actions become strategic complements. Moreover, with natural other-regarding preferences, some citizens participate in costly revolt even in large societies. A new empirical implication of the model is that as a regime grows stronger in the sense that a larger fraction of citizens is needed to overthrow it, the likelihood of regime change may rise.