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Populist Policies in the Transition to Democracy

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  • Daniel Mejía

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  • Carlos Esteban Posada

    ()

Abstract

This paper develops a political economy model that provides an explanation as for why ruling elites in oligarquic societies may rely on income redistribution to the poor (the masses) in order to prevent them from attempting a revolution. We refer to this kind of redistribution as populist redistribution because, first it does not increase the poor’s productive capacity (human capital), and second it seeks to “buy” political support (peace) to perpetuate the elite’s control of political power. We examine the conditions under which ruling elites choose to deter the poor (by means of military repression and/or populist redistribution), to engage in a dispute with the poor for the control of political power, or, alternatively, to extend democracy. According to the results of the model populist redistribution (or military repression), if any, increases with initial wealth inequality and with the amount of redistribution that the poor can undertake under democracy, and decreases with the relative importance of a human capital externality in production. The model explains why in some cases the use of an apparently ine cient policy of populist redistribution turns out to be optimal for both groups (the ruling elite and the poor class) when the alternative is to use of military repression or default to conflict.

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Paper provided by Banco de la Republica de Colombia in its series Borradores de Economia with number 349.

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Handle: RePEc:bdr:borrec:349

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Keywords: This paper develops a political economy model that provides an explanation as for why ruling elites in oligarquic societies may rely on income redistribution to the poor (the masses) in order to prevent them from attempting a revolution. We refer to this kind of redistribution as populist redistribution because; first it does not increase the poor’s productive capacity (human capital); and second it seeks to “buy” political support (peace) to perpetuate the elite’s control of political power. We examine the conditions under which ruling elites choose to deter the poor (by means of military repression and/or populist redistribution); to engage in a dispute with the poor for the control of political power; or; alternatively; to extend democracy. According to the results of the model populist redistribution (or military repression); if any; increases with initial wealth inequality and with the amount of redistribution that the poor can undertake under democracy; and decreases with the relative importance of a human capital externality in production. The model explains why in some cases the use of an apparently ine cient policy of populist redistribution turns out to be optimal for both groups (the ruling elite and the poor class) when the alternative is to use of military repression or default to conflict.;

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References

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  1. Alberto Alesina & Allan Drazen, 1989. "Why are Stabilizations Delayed?," NBER Working Papers 3053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daron Acemoglu, 2008. "Oligarchic Versus Democratic Societies," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(1), pages 1-44, 03.
  3. Campante, Filipe R. & Ferreira, Francisco H.G., 2007. "Inefficient lobbying, populism and oligarchy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 993-1021, June.
  4. Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastian Edwards, 1991. "The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dorn91-1, June.
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  9. Pedro DalBo & Ernesto DalBo, 2004. "Workers, Warriors and Criminals: Social Conflict in General Equilibrium," Working Papers 2004-11, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  10. Stergios Skaperdas, 1996. "Contest success functions (*)," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 283-290.
  11. Bourguignon, Francois & Verdier, Thierry, 2000. "Oligarchy, democracy, inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 285-313, August.
  12. Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastian Edwards, 1989. "Macroeconomic Populism in Latin America," NBER Working Papers 2986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastian Edwards, 1991. "Introduction to "The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America"," NBER Chapters, in: The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2006. "Das Human-Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 85-117.
  19. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  20. Francisco H.G. Ferreira, 2001. "Education for the masses? The interaction between wealth, educational and political inequalities," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 9(2), pages 533-552, July.
  21. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521855266 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Ian Morris, 2004. "Economic Growth in Ancient Greece," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(4), pages 709-, December.
  23. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1989. "Social Conflict and Populist Policies in Latin America," NBER Working Papers 2897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Grossman, Herschel I & Kim, Minseong, 1995. "Swords or Plowshares? A Theory of the Security of Claims to Property," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1275-88, December.
  25. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1991. "The Technology of Conflict as an Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 130-34, May.
  26. Daron Acemoglu, 2003. "The Form of Property Rights: Oligarchic vs. Democratic Societies," NBER Working Papers 10037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Savoia, Antonio & Easaw, Joshy & McKay, Andrew, 2010. "Inequality, Democracy, and Institutions: A Critical Review of Recent Research," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 142-154, February.
  2. Galor, Oded, 2012. "Inequality, Human Capital Formation and the Process of Development," IZA Discussion Papers 6328, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Colin Jennings, 2009. "The Good the Bad and the Populist: A Model of Political Agency with Emotional Voters," Working Papers 0909, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
  4. Oded Galor, 2009. "Inequality and Economic Development: An Overview," Working Papers 2009-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Filipe Campante, 2004. "Inefficient lobbying, populism and oligarchy," Textos para discussão 483, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  6. Begovic, Boris & Paunovic, Marko, 2011. "Political support for enterprise restructuring and voting in Serbia," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 171-180, March.
  7. Thaize Challier, M.-Christine, 2010. "Socio-political conflict, social distance, and rent extraction in historical perspective," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 51-67, March.

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