Hunger and Anger in Autocracies and Democracies When Food Prices Increase

By: Marcus Marktanner   Almuth Merkel  

How do democracies and autocracies respond to rising food prices? The literature on democratic redistribution implies that rising food prices increase the poor’s demands for redistribution of income from the rich. In a democracy, the poor vote for more redistribution of income from the rich to the poor to compensate for the poor’s higher loss of real income that results from Engel’s law. Then, for an authoritarian regime not to be overthrown, it must at least match the compensation obtained by the poor from the rich in a democracy. Our model shows that an authoritarian regime will be more likely overthrown when the authoritarian elite represents fewer rich. Implicit to the model are two hypotheses: First, food price inflation causes more food insecurity in authoritarian than in democratic regimes, and, second, authoritarian regimes are more likely to be overthrown than democracies when confronted with food price inflation. We provide empirical evidence for both hypotheses.

"Food Price Inflation", " State Fragility"
Food Policies, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Marcus Marktanner

Marktanner is Associate Professor of Economics and International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University. He holds a joint appointment in the Department of Economics, Finance, and Quantitative Analysis of the Coles College of Business and the PhD Program in International Conflict Management of the School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding, and Development. He received his PhD from the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany in 1997. In his doctoral thesis he examined the political economy of the economic transformation process of former socialist economies. Before joining the faculty of Kennesaw State University in June 2011, he held teaching and research positions in Lebanon, the USA, and Germany. His research focuses on comparative economics, economic development, and conflict economics. He has published in journals such as Energy Policy, Journal of International Development, Journal of Economic Studies, Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, and the Journal of Developing Areas. He has consulted the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the World Food Program (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). He also regularly contributes to the work of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation as an author and speaker on the topic of the Social Market Economy.

Almuth Merkel

Almuth Merkel is a PhD student in the PhD Program in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Ecotrophology and a Master's degree in Food and Agribusiness, both from Anhalt University in Germany. Her research focuses on the economic causes and consequences of food insecurity.