In this article, we link ideas from Evans concerning embedded autonomy to forest loss. In doing so, we hypothesize that higher levels of meritocratic hiring, firing, and promotion decisions in a government’s bureaucracy should correspond to less forest loss in low- and middle-income nations. We test this hypothesis by analyzing data from 78 low- and middle-income nations with ordinary least squares regression and two-stage instrumental variable regression models. We find support for the hypothesis across a variety of model specifications, which include other factors that have been linked to forest loss. We conclude by discussing the theoretical, methodological, and policy implications of the study.

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