Financial Liberalization: Stable Autocracies and Constrained Democracies

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Why do autocratic rulers liberalize financial markets? This article shows how autocrats use financial liberalization for two distinct purposes. First, autocrats may use liberalization to bolster the economy, making revolution less attractive to the political opposition and stabilizing the autocracy. Second, when stabilization of the autocracy is too costly, autocrats may use liberalization to make assets more mobile. Mobility provides elite asset owners with external investment options, which limit redistribution. When redistribution is the main fear associated with democratization, the mobility associated with liberalization makes direct control of political institutions through dictatorship unnecessary. Thus, autocrats use liberalization to stimulate the economy and stabilize their rule or to reduce redistribution in anticipation of democratization. Suharto’s policies in Indonesia and Pinochet’s policies in Chile illustrate these two objectives of financial liberalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-135
Number of pages31
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • autocracy
  • democratization and regime change
  • financial liberalization
  • formal theory
  • openness


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