December 14, 2007

Blattman on Violence and Voting in Uganda

Abstract: How do war and violence impact long-run political development? The bulk of existing theory and evidence concerns macro-level actors and processes. This paper presents evidence for a micro-level link between war and individual political engagement. I demonstrate that conscription by a Ugandan rebel group generates quasi-experimental variation in who became a combatant, and use original survey data to show that conscription leads to significantly greater political participation later in life, and that the principal channel appears to be war violence received (rather than perpetrated). Conscription and violence do not appear to affect nonpolitical forms of community participation, however. I show that these patterns are not easily explained by models of participation based on simple rational preferences, social preferences, mobilization by elites, or information availability. Only expressive theories of participation appear consistent with the patterns observed, whereby exposure to violence augments the value a person places on the act of political expression itself.

Christopher Blattman (2007), “From violence to voting: War and political participation in Uganda,” unpublished paper. Available here.

December 08, 2007

Nunn on the economic consequences of the slave trade

Abstract: Can part of Africa’s current underdevelopment be explained by its slave trades? To explore this question, I use data from shipping records and historical documents reporting slave ethnicities to construct estimates of the number of slaves exported from each country during Africa’s slave trades. I find a robust negative relationship between the number of slaves exported from a country and current economic performance. To better understand if the relationship is causal, I examine the historical evidence on selection into the slave trades, and use instrumental variables. Together the evidence suggests that the slave trades have had an adverse effect on economic development.

Nathan Nunn, “The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades,” forthcoming, Quarterly Journal of Economics. Available here.

Montinola on aid conditionality

Abstract: Many scholars argue that conditionality – the setting of policy goals in exchange for access to aid - does not work. None, however, investigates whether aid’s effect on policy is mediated byrecipient country characteristics. I argue that conditional aid’s efficacy depends on recipient countries’ level of democracy because the value of aid to governments depends on the degree to which it helps them maintain power, and recent work shows that the marginal impact of aid on political survival increases with level of democracy. I test this argument on data from 67 countries over the period from 1980 to 1999. I focus on aid’s impact on fiscal reform, one of the most commonly stipulated conditions in aid-for-policy arrangements. I show that aid promotes fiscal reform, but only in more democratic countries, and the positive impact of aid on reform increases with level of democracy. My work thus shows that conditionality is effective but only when applied on democratic governments.

Gabriella Montinola, “When Does Aid Conditionality Work?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 26, 2007

Denisova et al. on who wants to revisit privatization in formerly Communist countries.

Abstract: A 2006 survey of 28,000 individuals in 28 post-communist countries reveals overwhelming public support for the revision of privatization in the region. A majority of respondents, however, favors a revision of privatization that ultimately leaves firms in private hands. We identify which factors influence individuals’ support for revising privatization and explore whether respondents’ views are driven by a preference for state property or a concern for the fairness of privatization. We find that human capital poorly suited for a market economy with private ownership and a lack of privately owned assets increase support for revising privatization with the primary reason being a preference for state over private property. Economic hardships during transition and work in the state sector also increase support for revising privatization, but mainly due to the perceived unfairness of privatization. The effects of human capital and asset ownership on support for revising privatization are independent of a countries’ institutional environment. In contrast, good governance institutions amplify the impact of positive and negative transition experiences on attitudes toward revising privatization. In countries with low inequality, individuals with positive and negative transition experiences hold significantly different views about the superiority of private property, but this difference is much smaller in countries with high inequality.

Irina Denisova, Markus Eller, Timothy Frye and Ekatarina Zhuravskaya, “Who Wants to Revise Privatization and Why? Evidence from 28 Post-Communist Countries,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 07, 2007

Jones and Olken on the political consequences of assassination

Abstract: Assassinations are a persistent feature of the political landscape. Using a new data set of assassination attempts on all world leaders from 1875 to 2004, we exploit inherent randomness in the success or failure of assassination attempts to identify assassination’s effects. We find that, on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy. We also find that assassinations affect the intensity of small-scale conflicts. The results document a contemporary source of institutional change, inform theories of conflict, and show that small sources of randomness can have a pronounced effect on history.

Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken (2007), “Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Enikolopov, Petrova and Zhuravskaya on Media Control in Russia

Abstract: Governments control media in much of the developing world. Does this have an effect on political choices of voters? We address this question using exogenous variation in the availability of the signal of the only independent from the government national TV channel in Russia during the 1999 parliamentary elections. We find that the presence of an independent source of political news on TV significantly decreased the vote in favor of the government party, increased the vote in favor of the opposition parties. We find that the difference in TV coverage significantly changed voting behavior even controlling for voters’ inclinations just one month prior to the elections. The effects we find are larger than those found in established democracies.

Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (2007), “Television and Political Persuasion in Young Democracies: Evidence from Russia,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Petrova on Inequality and Media Capture

Abstract: Popular support of redistributive policies depends on information they have about the tax system and efficiency of public projects. Mass media provides a convenient means for manipulating public opinion, even when voters understand that the media can be biased. I develop a theory of media capture in which the rich can influence information published in a media outlet at a cost. The model shows that higher inequality is associated with lower media freedom; this effect is stronger in democratic regimes. I find empirical support for the model in both panel data and cross-country analysis.

Maria Petrova (2007), “Inequality and Media Capture,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 06, 2007

Blattmann and Annan on the Consequences of Child Soldiering

Abstract: Civil conflicts have afflicted a third of all nations and two thirds of Africa since 1991. In many cases, up to a third of male youth (including children) are drawn into armed groups, making soldiering one of the world’s most common occupations for the young. Little is known, however, about the impacts of military service on human capital and labor market outcomes due to an absence of data as well as sample selection: recruits are usually self-selected and screened, and may also selectively survive. We assess the impacts of participation in civil war using an original survey from Uganda, where a rebel group’s recruitment method provides arguably exogenous variation in conscription. Contrary to the prevailing view that participation in war leads to broad-based ‘traumatization’, we find that military service primarily hinders long-term economic performance because it is a poor substitute for civilian education and work experience. The most significant impact is upon a recruit’s skills and productivity: schooling falls by nearly a year, skilled employment halves, and earnings drop by a third. These impacts are highly robust to relaxation of the assumption of exogenous conscription. Effects are greatest for child soldiers, who lose the most education. There is no observed impact on social capital, and adverse impacts on mental health, while evident, are present in a relative minority.

Christopher Blattmann and Jeannie Annan (2007), “The Consequences of Child Soldiering” (unpublished paper). Available here.

November 02, 2007

Lieberman on AIDS and ethnic politics

Abstract: What explains country policy responses to the AIDS pandemic? The author highlights ethnic politics as a negative influence on AIDS-related expenditures and other policies. When societies are ethnically divided and fragmented, elites are less likely to mobilize around the idea of risk from a stigmatized condition, fearing that their group will suffer reputational consequences. They are more likely to emphasize that the risks are contained within other groups, or that the threat is exaggerated. In turn, governments are less likely to provide policies because of lower demand and the potential for political resistance to actions viewed as unwelcome and/or unnecessary. A series of cross-national statistical analyses consistently reveal negative effects of ethnic fractionalization on AIDS policy. As compared with analogous analyses, it is possible to rule out the potential endogeneity concern that ethnic political competition might be a consequence as much as it was a cause of bad public policy and underdevelopment.

Lieberman, Evan S. (2007), “Ethnic Politics, Risk, and Policy-Making: A Cross-National Statistical Analysis of Government Responses to HIV/AIDS,” Comparative Political Studies 40:1407-1432 . Available here.

October 30, 2007

Przeworski on whether the science of comparative politics is possible

Abstract: Many research problems in comparative politics involve assessing the causal impact of institutions, policies, or events on some performance, outcome, or result. While such evaluations are relatively unproblematic when data can be generated by the researcher, they are subject to several biases when data are produced by history. The
chapter is an overview of issues entailed in causal inference and an introduction to alternative research strategies.

Adam Przeworski (2007). “Is the Science of Comparative Politics Possible?” In Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. New York: Oxford University Press. Available here.

October 23, 2007

Haber and Menaldo on whether natural resources fuel authoritarianism

Is there a relationship between natural resource dependence and authoritarianism? In order to answer this question we develop unique datasets that allow us to focus on within-country variance in resource dependence and regime types since the nineteenth century. Our results indicate that resource dependence is not associated with the undermining of democracy, the persistence of authoritarianism, or less complete transitions to democracy. Our time series results are at variance with a large body of scholarship that finds a negative relationship between natural resource dependence and democracy in cross section. We therefore subject those cross-sectional results to a battery of standard diagnostics, and find that the results reported in that literature are very fragile: they are highly sensitive to how natural resource dependence is measured; a product of omitted variable bias due to unobserved heterogeneity; and driven by outliers engendered by longitudinal truncation. Taken together, our results suggest that regime types are not, in the long run, determined by the presence or absence of natural resource wealth.

Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo (2007), “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 16, 2007

Centellas on electoral reform in Bolivia

Abstract: This paper considers the effects of electoral system reform in Bolivia. In 1995, Bolivia shifted away from a list-proportional to a mixed-member proportional electoral system. One of the most noticeable changes in the intervening years has been a growing regional polarization of politics and a collapse of the existing party system, particularly after October 2003. Using statistical analysis of disaggregated electoral data (at the department, municipality, and district level), this paper tests whether electoral system reforms contributed to the current political crisis. Though research findings show that regional cleavages existed prior to electoral system reform, they also suggest that reforms aggravated their effects. Such a finding gives reason to question the recent popularity of mixed-member proportionality.

Miguel Centellas (2007), “Electoral Reform, Regional Cleavages and Party System Stability in Bolivia (1985-2005),” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 08, 2007

Hsieh et al. on how Venezuala's government punishes the opposition (and how the opposition punishes government supporters)

Do individuals who join the political opposition pay an economic price? We study this question using unique information on individual political activity from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, the Maisanta database. The names of millions of pro-opposition supporters who signed recall petitions (seeking to remove Chávez from office) during 2002-2003, and the names of progovernment supporters who signed counter-petitions, were made public. Media accounts detail how this information has been utilized by both sides: by the Government to punish opposition supporters and firms, and by the overwhelmingly pro-opposition private sector to discriminate against government supporters in hiring. After linking this political database to both national household survey and manufacturing firm data, we find that pro-opposition individuals experience significant drops in total earnings after 2003. There is extensive churning in the labor market: pro-opposition individuals disproportionately leave public sector employment and pro-government individuals leave private sector employment. Pro-opposition firms have falling total employment, less access to foreign exchange, and rising tax burdens (possibly due to selective audits). The misallocation of resources associated with political polarization between 1999-2004 contributed to a decline of 5% in TFP in our sample. To the extent other regimes can identify and punish the political opposition, these findings may help explain why dislodging authoritarian regimes often proves difficult in less developed countries.

Chang-Tai Hsieh, Edward Miguel, Daniel Ortega and Francisco Rodriguez (2007), “The Price of Political Opposition: Evidence from Venezuela’s Maisanta,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 01, 2007

Saiegh on Credible Commitments and the State in Argentina

Abstract: The notion that governments bound by the rule of law are less likely to expropriate private wealth has been a prominent idea since the publication of North and Weingast’s seminal article on public borrowing in seventeenth-century England. However, this view has been challenged recently. For example, Stasavage (2003) argues that constitutional checks and balances are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to create a credible commitment to secure property rights. One of the main shortcomings of the literature, however, is that it has tried to settle the debate by looking at evidence on sovereign borrowing from the same pair of countries (England and France). This article seeks to overcome such limitation by focusing on the link between representative government and public borrowing in Argentina. I present an “analytic narrative” of the country’s rags-to-riches story in the nineteenth century. First, I use historical evidence to document the relationship between absolute government, the absence of long-term borrowing, and the use of money creation to finance public deficits in the period between 1820 and 1862. Next, I examine public finance in the period between 1863 and 1913, when constitutional checks and balances were finally set up. I complement the historical narrative with an econometric analysis using time-series data on the partisan control of government, monetary policies, and public borrowing. The Argentine experience suggests that while constitutional checks and balances can improve possibilities for credible commitment, they are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for this to occur.

Sebastian M. Saiegh (2007), “North and Weingast Revisited: Credible Commitments and Public Borrowing in the Pampas,” unpublished paper. Available here.

September 17, 2007

Linberg and Morrison on Clientelism, Voting and Africa

Abstract: This article explores voting behavior in one of Africa’s new democracies. Recognizing that much of the literature assumes African political behavior to be subsumed in ethnic ties and clientelism, we ask if individual voting behavior in Africa is driven by evaluative rationales based on retrospective or prospective judgments of the performance of parties or representatives, or by non-evaluative rationales characterized by clientelism and proxy voting. Based on a survey of voters in two recent elections in Ghana, one of the most surprising findings is that an overwhelming majority of the respondents do not vote based on clientelism, or due to ethnic or family ties but cast their ballots after evaluation of candidates and parties. Despite the significance of ethnicity among elites in Africa, voters are seemingly not influenced primarily by it. This leads us to hypothesize that citizens in “transitional democracies” often reason and behave as relatively “mature” democratic voters by consciously appraising the past performance of the promised policy programs of candidates and parties. We also found in the Ghanaian case that as expected clientelism is more likely where political competition is high. This seems to suggest a dilemma in newly democratizing poor countries: while high-level competition is generally thought to be a desirable characteristic of a democratic regime, competition may also work to raise the frequency of political corruption.

Staffan Lindberg and Minion Morrison (2008), “Are African Voters Really Ethnic or Clientelistic? Survey Evidence from Ghana,” Political Science Quarterly, forthcoming. Available here.

August 22, 2007

Lyall on indiscriminate violence and insurgency

Abstract: Does a state’s use of indiscriminate violence incite insurgent attacks? Nearly all existing theories and empirical studies conclude that such actions only fuel insurgencies by facilitating insurgent mobilization. This proposition is tested using a natural experiment that draws on random artillery strikes by Russian forces in Chechnya (2000-05) to estimate the impact of indiscriminate violence on subsequent insurgent violence. A difference-in-difference (DD) estimation method is adopted in which shelled villages are matched with similar non-repressed settlements over identical time periods to estimate treatment effects. The findings are counterintuitive. Shelled villages and their home districts (raiony) exhibit less post-treatment violence than control groups. In addition, commonly-cited “triggers”for insurgent retaliation, including the lethality and duration of indiscriminate violence, are either insignificant or negatively correlated with insurgent attack propensity.

Jason Lyall (2007), “Does Indiscriminate Violence Incite Insurgent Attacks? Evidence from a Natural Experiment,” unpublished paper. Available here.

August 21, 2007

Scheve and Stasavage on partisanship and inequality

Abstract: It has been widely suggested by political scientists that institutions like centralized wage bargaining and factors like government partisanship are correlated with differences in income inequality between advanced industrial countries. There is empirical evidence for the period since 1970 to support each of these propositions. We make use of new data on top income shares to examine the effects of partisanship and wage bargaining over a much longer time period, nearly the entire twentieth century. Our empirical results provide little support for the idea that either of these two factors is correlated with income inequality over this period. We then show that a closer look at the introduction of centralized wage bargaining in individual countries during the 1930s and 1940s reveals that in countries that moved to centralize wage bargaining, income inequality was already trending downward well before the institutional change, and the move to centralized bargaining did not alter this trend. Our results suggest that there were alternative institutional paths to reduced income inequality during most of the twentieth century. This raises the possibility that commonly shared economic and political events, such as world wars and economic crises, may ultimately be more important for understanding the evolution of income inequality than are the institutional or partisan characteristics commonly thought to be decisive.

Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage (2007), “Institutions, Partisanship, and Inequality in the Long Run,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Acemoglu et al. on the spurious correlation between wealth and democracy

This paper revisits and critically re-evaluates the widely-accepted modernization hypothesis which claims that per capita income causes the creation and the consolidation of democracy. We argue that existing studies find support for this hypothesis because they fail to control for the presence of omitted variables. There are many underlying historical factors that affect both the level of income per capita and the likelihood of democracy in a country, and failing to control for these factors may introduce a spurious relationship between income and democracy. We show that controlling for these historical factors by including fixed country effects removes the correlation between income and democracy, as well as the correlation between income and the likelihood of transitions to and from democratic regimes. We argue that this evidence is consistent with another well-established approach in political science, which emphasizes how events during critical historical junctures can lead to divergent political-economic development paths, some leading to prosperity and democracy, others to relative poverty and non-democracy. We present evidence in favor of this interpretation by documenting that the fixed effects we estimate in the post-war sample are strongly associated with historical variables that have previously been used to explain diverging development paths within the former colonial world.

Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, James A Robinson and Pierre Yared (2007), “Reevaluating the Modernization Hypothesis,” unpublished paper, available here. Via Dani Rodrik.

August 08, 2007

Lynch on Blogging the New Arab Public

A few years ago, … Arab blogs could easily be written off as a fad, fueled by the novelty of some outspoken female Saudi bloggers and the prominence of some English-language Iraqi blogs in the American political blogosphere. There are still plenty of reasons to believe that blogs will never live up to their hype. … Blogs reach only a fraction of the audience of Al Jazeera or even of tedious state-dominated newspapers. Where bloggers have been politically influential, such as Egypt and Bahrain, repressive regimes have been able to crack down on them. From this perspective, it is highly unlikely that blogging will induce wide political change in the Middle East. While a healthy skepticism is wise, it would be wrong to conclude that blogging has no role in Arab politics. Arab political blogging is changing and becoming more politically relevant. Bloggers have had a discernible impact in a wide range of Arab countries, including their role in the Kefaya movement in Egypt …, political protests in Bahrain …, the turbulent post-Al Hariri period in Lebanon…, anti-corruption campaigns in Libya … and the 2006 Kuwaiti elections. While political opportunities usually come first—around elections, national scandals, or contentious elite debates, for instance—blogs can be catalysts for previously unlikely political mobilization.

Marc Lynch (2007), “Blogging the New Arab Public,” Arab Media and Society February 2007. Available here. NB - this is being reposted because the first time that I posted it, I neglected to include the hyperlink.

August 07, 2007

Why France has VAT and America Doesn't

(Crossposted from Crooked Timber)

Bruce Bartlett is advocating the introduction of Value Added Tax to America. This is a perennial proposal on the right, but it doesn’t appear to ever gain much political traction. The obvious reason why is that VAT is unpopular because it’s a regressive tax (the more people earn, the less they pay). However, this doesn’t explain why European countries which one would expect to be more attracted to progressive taxation systems have VAT, often at quite high levels.

Former CT guest blogger (and current GWU colleague and friend of mine) Kimberly Morgan has written a nice historical paper (Word file here )with Monica Prasad looking at how the US came “to have a tax code that is on many levels more hostile to capital accumulation than its peers” while France “which in some opinions has “never really been won over to capitalism” ” found itself relying on taxes that hit workers and consumers unusually hard. Simplifying drastically, she and Prasad argue that it can be explained by timing. Industrial capitalism arrived in the US before a real national state came into being, while the state preceded capitalism in France. The weak state in the US, and the willingness of business to ride roughshod over consumers, “led to an intense public interest in disciplining capital, which underpinned a movement toward income taxation that would punish capital and the wealthy.” In France, in contrast, well-founded fears of state intrusion led French citizens to fear direct taxation, and tax advocates to work against “fiscal inquisition” and the further expansion of the state into private life. This left French left-wingers ambivalent about the virtues of income taxes, so that a state crippled by war expenses had to turn to a sales tax to raise money. If this is right (and they provide a lot of historical evidence), some of the verities of left and right about France and the US should be turned on their head (this is one of the reasons why it’s a fun paper, for values of fun that include ‘detailed historical institutionalist arguments about causation.’)

July 23, 2007

Cusack, Iversen and Soskice on How Economic Interests Shape the Origins of Electoral Systems


The standard explanation for the choice of electoral institutions, building on Rokkan’s seminal work, is that proportional representation (PR) was adopted by a divided right to defend its class interests against a rising left. But new evidence shows that PR strengthens the left and redistribution, and we argue the standard view is wrong historically, analytically and empirically. We offer a radically different explanation. Integrating two opposed interpretations of PR – minimum winning coalitions versus consensus – we propose that the right adopted PR when their support for consensual regulatory frameworks, especially of labor markets and skill formation where co-specific investments were important, outweighed their opposition to the redistributive consequences; this occurred in countries with previously densely organized local economies. In countries with adversarial industrial relations, and weak coordination of business and unions, keeping majoritarian institutions helped contain the left. This explains the close association between current varieties of capitalism and electoral institutions, and why they
persist over time.

Thomas Cusack,Torben Iversen and David Soskice (forthcoming), “Economic Interests and the Origins of Electoral Systems,” American Political Science Review. Available here.

Wibbels and Ahlquist on Social Security in the Developing World

Despite concerted attention to the causes and consequences of government investment in education, little research has sought to systematically explain the roots and developmental consequences of the single largest category of spending in the developing world: social security. This paper establishes a theoretical framework linking autarkic post-World War II economic strategies in the developing world to the emergence of insurance-based social regimes that emphasize spending on programs like social security. In doing so, the paper has three aims: First, to identify structural factors affecting the choice of internally oriented developmental strategies; second, to link key features of internally-oriented capitalism to the birth and development of social policy regimes; and third, to examine the developmental implications of insurance-based social spending regimes in an era of opening international markets.We argue that a government’s choice of development strategy is conditioned by the size of the domestic market, relative abundance of labor, and land inequality in the context of a closed international trading system. The development strategy in turn shapes the fiscal priority governments place on social insurance. We then claim that large investments in inequitable insurance programs left nations poorly prepared for the opening of international markets that began in the early 1980s. Preliminary empirical analysis finds
support for our argument. Overall, the results suggest that economic policies in the 1960s and 1970s had important implications for the emergence of social policy and that those early outlines are more important than “globalization” in shaping both contemporary social policy and economic outcomes.

Erik Wibbels and John Ahlquist (2007), “Development, Autarky, and Social Insurance,” unpublished paper. Available here.

July 16, 2007

Hyde on why political leaders invite election monitors and cheat in front of them

Until 1962, there were no recorded cases of international election observation in sovereign states. Today, it is rare for a developing country to have a legitimate election without the presence of international observers. Upwards of 80 percent of elections held in nonconsolidated democracies are now monitored, and many leaders orchestrate obvious electoral fraud in the presence of international observers who condemn them. Alberto Fujimori of Peru,
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Manuel Noriega of Panama, and Eduard Shevardnadze of the Republic of Georgia, among others, invited large delegations of international observers to judge their elections and were subsequently condemned internationally for widespread manipulation of the electoral process. Inspired by this empirical puzzle, this article addresses the following two-part question: First, why did the practice spread so widely when it is potentially costly for leaders to invite international observers to judge their elections? Second, why do so many leaders bother to invite observers when they know they are going to cheat?

Susan Hyde (2007), “Catch Me if You Can: Why Leaders Invite International Election Monitors and Cheat in Front of Them.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

July 13, 2007

Morgan and Prasad on the origins of French and US tax systems

ABSTRACT: We explain why the U.S. has a more progressive tax system than France by exploring the origins of the French and American tax systems in the early 20th century. Our account centers on the sequence of industrialization and state development in each country: the arrival of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century preceded the formation of state capacity at the national level in the U.S., while a well-developed national state preceded industrial capitalism in France. In the U.S., the absence of a strong state and concomitant abuses by big business led to an intense public interest in disciplining capital, which underpinned a political movement for progressive income taxation. In France, by contrast, a strong state with a well-developed fiscal apparatus was perceived as extremely intrusive, whereas industrial capitalism was less developed than in the US. Instead of rallying the lower and middle classes around a fight against monopoly capitalism and inequality, French income tax advocates instead had to assuage fears of “fiscal inquisition” by the state. When the First World War dramatically increased American and French revenue needs, those needs were met through income taxation in the US, and sales taxation in France, solidifying divergent approaches towards taxation that would endure throughout the 20th century.

Kimberly Morgan and Monica Prasad (2007), “The Origins of Tax Systems: A French-American Comparison.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

July 02, 2007

Acemoglu, Bautista, Querubin and Robinson on Political and Economic Inequality and Growth

Abstract: Is inequality harmful for economic growth? Is the underdevelopment of Latin America related to its unequal distribution of wealth? A recently emerging consensus claims not only that economic inequality has detrimental effects on economic growth in general, but also that differences in economic inequality across the American continent during the 19th century are responsible for the radically different economic performances of the north and south of the continent. In this paper we investigate this hypothesis using unique 19th century micro data on land ownership and political office holding in the state of Cundinamarca, Colombia. Our results shed considerable doubt on this consensus. Even though Cundinamarca is indeed more unequal than the Northern United States at the time, within Cundinamarca municipalities that were more unequal in the 19th century (as measured by the land gini) are more developed today. Instead, we argue that political rather than economic inequality might be more important in understanding long-run development paths and document that municipalities with greater political inequality, as measured by political concentration, are less developed today. We also show that during this critical period the politically powerful were able to amass greater wealth, which is consistent with one of the channels through which political inequality might affect economic allocations. Overall our findings shed doubt on the conventional wisdom and suggest that research on long-run comparative development should investigate the implications of political inequality as well as those of economic inequality.

Discussion [Crossposted at Crooked Timber]

Tyler Cowen points to a very interesting new paper by Daron Acemoglu and his colleagues (PDF - it was here this morning, but this link isn’t working for me any more; see here for a slightly earlier version) on the relationship between political and economic inequality. Tyler’s gloss is that this provides general insights into the “meme” of whether economic inequality is bad for growth, and concludes that “at least from that data set, the real problem seems to be rent-seeking behavior through the political process.” Thus, unless I misunderstand him (which is possible; he may just be blogging in shorthand), he is saying that this paper provides significant evidence suggesting that economic inequality isn’t the cause of slower economic growth; instead, political inequality and rent-seeking are at fault.

Continue reading "Acemoglu, Bautista, Querubin and Robinson on Political and Economic Inequality and Growth" »

June 27, 2007

Lorentzen on Riots in China

Abstract: The occurrence of protests in authoritarian countries is often seen as a harbinger of regime collapse. Yet China since the 1990s has seen a significant rise in popular protest while maintaining economic growth and its reform trajectory. Furthermore, the Chinese government has shown its ability to effectively suppress dissent when it chooses to. This paper argues that deliberate toleration of narrow economic protests serves the Chinese government’s purposes in two ways. First, it allows the government to identify and defuse discontented groups. Second, it provides a useful signal of local government corruption that can be used to supplement and direct limited administrative monitoring resources. This mechanism has become particularly useful to the government of contemporary China as the processes of decentralization and market reform have made identification and investigation of local corruption more difficult.

Peter L. Lorentzen, “Regularized Rioting: Strategic Toleration of Popular Protest in China,” unpublished paper. Available here.

June 26, 2007

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Matthew Adam Kocher on ethnic cleavages in Iraq

Abstract: The conflict in Iraq has been portrayed as “ethnic” civil war, a radically different conflict from “ideological” wars such as Vietnam. We argue that such an assessment is misleading, as is its theoretical foundation, which we call the “ethnic war model.” Neither Iraq nor Vietnam conforms to the ethnic war model’s predictions. The sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni militias is not simply the outcome of sectarian cleavages in Iraqi society, but to an important extent, a legacy of U.S. occupation. On the other hand, although Vietnam was a society riven by ethnic cleavages, the Vietnam War also fails to conform to the ethnic war model. We show that there is no necessary overlap between ethnic conflict and ethnic war. Some ethnic conflicts evolve into ethnic wars, and others develop dynamics virtually indistinguishable from those of ideological civil wars. We suggest that the state’s role is essential in transforming conflicts into either ethnic or irregular wars. We conclude with an analysis of the current situation and future prospects in Iraq.

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Matthew Adam Kocher (2007), “Ethnic Cleavages and Irregular War: Iraq and Vietnam,” Politics and Society 35:183-223. Available (sub required) here. Earlier draft available here.

Beissinger on Colour Revolutions

Abstract: The article develops an approach to the study of modular political phenomena (action based in significant part on emulation of the prior successful example of others), focusing on the trade-offs between the influence of example, structural facilitation, and institutional constraints. The approach is illustrated through the example of the spread of democratic revolution in the post-communist region during the 2000–2006 period, with significant comparisons to the diffusion of separatist nationalism in the Soviet Union during the glasnost’ era.

Mark R. Beissinger (2007), “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions, Perspectives on Politics 5: 259-276. Available (sub needed) here. Earlier draft available here.

June 25, 2007

Brown on Palestine-Israel

Nathan Brown, The Peace Process Has No Clothes

One month before the most vicious round of intra-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, testified before Congress, seeking to justify American intervention on the side of Fatah using the terms that have grown familiar over years of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. He explained that the United States sought to back the legal presidential security forces—who were working to meet Palestinian obligations under the Road Map—against the forces of disorder. The statement may have made sense according to some logic followed in the US capital, but it was utterly disconnected from realities in the region.

Fatah—as much if not more than Hamas—bears deep responsibility for the deepening chaos in Palestinian society. And American policy has deepened that chaos in some fundamental and absolutely deliberate ways. There is no peace process for Hamas and Fatah to fight over. The Road Map was already anachronistic when it was announced in 2003 and is pursued seriously now by none of the concerned parties. Even General Dayton’s description of the legal situation was simply wrong: the Palestinian constitution was amended in 2003 at American insistence to make internal security a cabinet and not a presidential responsibility. While officials spoke of peace and order, American policy in effect—and sometimes by design—supported the political disintegration of Palestinian society and the slide toward civil war. …

Full text available here.

Ben-Josef Hirsch on the New History in Israel

Abstract: In the last round of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the Taba Conference (January 2001), Israeli negotiators went where no Israeli officials went before: they considered the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and a quasi-statement that acknowledges the Palestinian tragedy and Israel’s share of historical responsibility. This paper argues that at least in part this shift in the negotiations’ framework can be traced back to the public debate instigated by the work of Israeli New Historians.

Michal Ben-Josef Hirsch (2007), “From Taboo to the Negotiable: The Israeli New Historians and the Changing Representation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” Perspectives on Politics 5, 3:241-258. Available here.

Givens on Immigration in Europe

Abstract: Most European countries are examining how they have sought to integrate immigrants in the past and how they might change their policies to avoid some of the problems exhibited in immigrant and minority communities today. Discrimination and issues of racism, including the rise of anti-immigrant radical right parties, have become important, as evidenced in part by the passage of the European Union’s Racial Equality Directive in 2000. This essay reviews comparative research in political science on immigrant integration in Western Europe. It discusses multiculturalism and assimilation, party politics, antidiscrimination policy, and policy at the European Union level.

Terry E. Givens (2007), “Immigrant Integration in Europe: Empirical Research,” Annual Review of Political Science 10: 67-83. Available (sub needed) here.