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The Prince--or Better No Prince? The Strategic Value of Appointing a Successor


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Appointing a successor (the "prince") allows the ruler (the "king") to alter the structures of conflicts that take place between him and his potential challengers, as well as the structures of conflicts that take place among his potential challengers. Motivated by historical examples and using an infinite horizon rulership competition game, we show that while an appointed prince constitutes a powerful and dangerous threat to the incumbent ruler (the elevated threat effect), the appointed prince can also offer the incumbent ruler increased protection against other potential challengers (the barrier effect). We determine conditions when the overall effect of appointing a successor benefits the incumbent ruler and enables him to acquire a larger share of the governance rent in equilibrium.