31 Jan 2013
Targeting Autocrats: Economic Sanctions and Regime Change
NCCR-Trade Working Paper No. 2013/31 by Manuel Oechslin
When it comes to international economic sanctions, the most frequent goal is regime change and democratization. Yet, use and consequences of such sanctions are little understood. Past experiences suggest that they are often unsuccessful. Moreover, paradoxically, targeted regimes tend to respond by implementing policies which severely amplify the sanctions’ harmful effects. This paper offers a political-economy model which provides an intuitive explanation for these observations. Autocratic regimes lower the supply of public goods to reduce private-sector productivity and hence the resources of potential challengers. As a result, sanctions-induced challenges become less likely - and the sanctions episode may end in failure.