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On the Political Economy of Land Reform

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We develop an approach to understand the role of autocratic land reforms to prevent democratic change. The autocrat confiscates and redistributes land in an attempt to secure his power, exploiting the endogenous social identities and loyalty in the population. The optimal land reform for the dictator balances the benefits of giving land to members of the elite to strengthen their support with the benefits of giving land to tillers to reduce their opposition against the autocratic rule. We show how autocratic land redistribution is more likely to increase land inequality further, the more unequal the land distribution is in the first place. While land to tillers is allocated in a way that increases inequality among them, land to the elite is allocated in a way that reduces the inequality within the elite

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