Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 17 > Issue 1

Transparency and Stability

Mehdi Shadmehr, Department of Public Policy, UNC Chapel Hill, USA, mshadmeh@gmail.com , Dan Bernhardt, Department of Economics, University of Illinois, USA, danber@illinois.edu
Suggested Citation
Mehdi Shadmehr and Dan Bernhardt (2022), "Transparency and Stability", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 17: No. 1, pp 121-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00019195

Publication Date: 24 Jan 2022
© 2022 M. Shadmehr and D. Bernhardt
Public Economics:Public Goods,  Economic Theory:Game Theory,  Autocracy,  Civil conflict,  Comparative politics,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Political economy,  Social movements,  Uncertainty,  Collective action


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In this article:
Transparency and Stability 
The Hollyer et al. Model 
Obtaining a Unique Responsive Equilibrium 
Appendix: Proofs 


We revisit the theory that Hollyer, Rosendorff, and Vreeland use in their research program on transparency and political stability. We show that in a representative citizen setting and in their multi-citizen model, more transparency increases the likelihood of revolution if this likelihood is sufficiently small, but reduces the likelihood of revolution if it is sufficiently large. Rather than coordination concerns, the mechanism driving this result reflects the logic of "gambling for resurrection": when you're ahead, don't give information, but when you're behind, gamble for resurrection by providing more information. Their model suggests that protest risk drives transparency, not the converse: regimes facing a low likelihood of revolution should reduce transparency, while those facing a high likelihood of revolution should raise transparency, generating a positive correlation between transparency and instability. Moreover, we show that in Hollyer et al.'s core models, a citizen's net payoff from revolting does not depend on either the citizen's private economic well-being, or the public economic situation: economic interest, either self-interest or sociotropic interest, is not itself an incentive to protest. Rather, the model is a sunspot game, with economic data playing the role of sunspots, which, by assumption, act as focal points for coordination.