DP5748 | Media Freedom, Bureaucratic Incentives and the Resource Curse

Publication Date


JEL Code(s)


Programme Area(s)


How can a non-democratic ruler provide proper incentives for state bureaucracy? In the absence of competitive elections and separation of powers, the ruler has to be well-informed himself, and to gather information he may use either a secret service or the media. The danger of using a secret service is that it can collude with bureaucrats; overcoming collusion is costly. Free media aggregate information and thus constrain bureaucrats, but also help citizens to coordinate on actions against the incumbent. We endogenize the ruler's choice in a dynamic model to argue that free media are less likely to emerge in resource-rich economies where the ruler is less interested in providing incentives to his subordinates. We show that this prediction is consistent with both cross-section and panel data.