This dissertation presents three essays in institutional economics. Each chapter considers a different stage in the progression of institutional agreements, beginning with an essay on the origin of repressive regimes, proceeding to an essay on how natural resources finance civil war, and concluding with an essay on the effect of political institutions on the voluntary provision of public goods. Each essay examines the interdependence of economic and institutional factors.
The first chapter examines the relationship between insecure property rights over natural resource wealth, redistribution, and the emergence of repressive regimes. This chapter presents a theoretical model examining a government's decision to redistribute natural resource wealth when property rights are insecure. I show that the presence of insecure property rights can lead to redistribution taking inefficient forms. I then consider repression as a means available to those in power to avoid engaging in inefficient redistribution. The theory suggests that repressive regimes emerge as a means to avoid deterring conflict through redistribution.
The second chapter examines the importance of economic factor when institutions are contested, by examining how the ability to finance civil war with natural resource wealth effects the incidence, onset and duration of civil war. In this essay I estimate the causal effect of an international certification scheme whose aim is to reduce conflict by eliminating trade in diamonds sold to finance conflict. I find that the policy significantly reduced conflict and that this reduction resulted from a reduction in the duration of conflicts rather than preventing new conflicts from initiating. The results suggest that access to a lucrative source of financing does not cause civil war but can prolong civil wars that began for other reasons.
In the final chapter I consider how political institutions, once in place, effect economic outcomes. In this essay, I examine the effect that democratic institutions have on cooperation in public goods games. I find that allowing people to vote on the per capita return of a public good significantly increases contributions to the public good. The results emphasize the important of the institutions that choose policy.