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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 12, 2022

Sanctions are Costly for Citizens but Beneficial for Autocrats: A Political-Economic Perspective

  • Reiner Eichenberger and David Stadelmann ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal The Economists’ Voice


Economic sanctions negatively affect the target country’s economic potential. As a type of enforced protectionism, sanctions shift the relative power in the target country between its citizens and its (autocratic) government. This shift tends to favor autocrats as their power over the limited means of production increases and as they control the remaining international exchange opportunities. Resistance against autocratic governments would require collective action by citizens or an organized political opposition, but the autocrats’ relative gain in power due to sanctions increases their likelihood of staying in power. Internationally, an economically weakened country may present less of an external military threat. However, as the stabilization of a target regime is a likely outcome of sanctions, sanctioned regimes remain an international threat. Therefore, we also discuss potential alternatives to sanctions as policy tools.

Corresponding author: Dr. David Stadelmann, Professor, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany, E-mail:

We would like to thank Marco Frank and Patricia Schafer for their inspiring discussions and research assistance.


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Received: 2022-10-17
Accepted: 2022-11-11
Published Online: 2022-12-12

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