Incumbent policy, benefits provision, and the triggering and spread of revolutionary uprisings
This article analyzes revolutionary uprisings, such as the Arab spring of 2011. Revolutions occur with an inherent probability dependent on a country’s characteristics. A country’s incumbent leader can decrease this probability by providing benefits to a population, e.g., public goods such as necessities of life, health care, safety, and education. We equate the probability of revolution with Granovetter’s equilibrium proportion of a population that joins a revolution. Decreased benefits provision increases the share of revolutionaries which, in turn, decreases the cost of revolt which helps resolve the free-rider problem implicit in revolting. The article quantifies how the incumbent chooses whether or not to provide benefits, and how many benefits to provide. We account for the unit cost of providing benefits and for the effects of the benefits provided, adjusted for whether the inherent revolution probability is low or high. Combining the modeling approaches, i.e., how revolutions spread and how the incumbent provides benefits, enriches our understanding of which factors affect revolutions and of how populations and their incumbent leaders interact. The model helps to understand the logic of revolutionary uprisings and how they can be curtailed.
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