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When is Democracy an Equilibrium?: Theory and Evidence from Colombia’s La Violencia

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  • Mario Chacón

    ()
    (Yale University)

  • James A. Robinson

    ()
    (Harvard University)

  • Ragnar Torvik

    ()
    (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Abstract

The conventional wisdom in political science is that for a democracy to be consolidated, all groups must have a chance to attain power. If they do not then they will subvert democracy and choose to fight for power. In this paper we show that this wisdom is, if not totally incorrect, seriously incomplete. This is so because although the probability of winning an election increases with the size of a group, so does the probability of winning a fight. Thus in a situation where all groups have a high chance of winning an election, they may also have a high chance of winning a fight. Indeed, in a natural model, we show that democracy may never be consolidated in such a situation. Rather, democracy may only be stable when one group is dominant. We provide a test of a key aspect of our model using data from La Violencia, a political conflict in Colombia during the years 1946-1950 between the Liberal and Conservative parties. Consistent with our results, and contrary to the conventional wisdom, we show that fighting between the parties was more intense in municipalities where the support of the parties was more evenly balanced.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 21.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:21

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  2. Anbarci, Nejat & Skaperdas, Stergios & Syropoulos, Constantinos, 2002. "Comparing Bargaining Solutions in the Shadow of Conflict: How Norms against Threats Can Have Real Effects," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 1-16, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Michael McBride & Gary Milante & Stergios Skaperdas, 2009. "Peace and War with Endogenous State Capacity," Working Papers 091002, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  2. Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan F. Vargas, 2013. "Don't Make War, Make Elections. Franchise Extension and Violence in XIXth-Century Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010584, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  3. James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik, 2008. "Endogenous Presidentialism," NBER Working Papers 14603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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