“Military Moral Hazard and the Fate of Empires” by Charles Zheng
University of Western Ontario
To explain why authority was delegated to the military in some empires and centralized in others, we construct a model where the military may revolt, the civilians may shirk, and the two negotiate how much power to delegate to the military, which enables the military to defend, but also to usurp, the empire. At equilibrium, the wealthier is the empire relative to her peripheral adversaries, the less power is delegated. This, coupled with historical evidence, ascribes the institutional contrast between the delegation in Rome and centralization in China to their different environments, with imperial China surrounded by more indigent adversaries.