Beyond divide and rule : weak dictators, natural resources and civil conflict
We propose a model where an autocrat rules over an ethnically divided society. The dictator selects the tax rate over domestic production and the nation’s natural resources to maximize his rents under the threat of a regime-switching revolution. We show that a weak ruler may let the country plunge in civil war to increase his personal rents. Inter-group fighting weakens potential opposition to the ruler, thereby allowing him to increase fiscal pressure. We show that the presence of natural resources exacerbates the incentives of the ruler to promote civil conflict for his own profit, especially if the resources are unequally distributed across ethnic groups. We validate the main predictions of the model using cross-country data over the period 1960-2007, and show that our empirical results are not likely to be driven by omitted observable determinants of civil war incidence or by unobservable country-specific heterogeneity.