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Income, Democracy, and the Cunning of Reason

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  • Daniel Treisman
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    Abstract

    A long-standing debate pits those who think economic development leads to democratization against those who argue that both result from distant historical causes. Using the most comprehensive estimates of national income available, I show that development is associated with more democratic government—but in the medium run (10 to 20 years). The reason is that, for the most part, higher income only prompts a breakthrough to more democratic politics after the incumbent leader falls from power. And in the short run, faster economic growth increases the leader’s odds of survival. This logic—for which I provide evidence at the levels of individual countries and the world—helps explain why democracy advances in waves followed by periods of stasis and why dictators, concerned only to entrench themselves in power, end up preparing their countries to leap to a higher level of democracy when they are eventually overthrown.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17132.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17132

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    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2011. "Trust in Public Institutions over the Business Cycle," CESifo Working Paper Series 3389, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Filipe R. Campante & Davin Chor, 2012. "The People Want the Fall of the Regime": Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy," Working Papers 08-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    3. Sophia Rabe-Hesketh & Anders Skrondal, 2012. "Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 3rd Edition," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 3, number mimus2, March.
    4. Christian Morrisson & Fabrice Murtin, 2009. "The century of education," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586751, HAL.
    5. Jess Benhabib & Alejandro Corvalan & Mark M. Spiegel, 2011. "Reestablishing the Income-Democracy Nexus," NBER Working Papers 16832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "Why does democracy need education?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Libman, Alexander & Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten & Yadav, Gaurav, 2013. "Are human rights and economic well-being substitutes? The evidence from migration patterns across the Indian states," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 139-164.
    2. Gilli Mario & Li Yuan, 2012. "Citizenry Accountability in Autocracies," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 18(3), pages 1-6, December.
    3. Heid, Benedikt & Langer, Julian & Larch, Mario, 2012. "Income and democracy: Evidence from system GMM estimates," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 166-169.
    4. Murtin, Fabrice & Wacziarg, Romain, 2011. "The Democratic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 8599, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Che, Yi & Lu, Yi & Tao, Zhigang & Wang, Peng, 2013. "The impact of income on democracy revisited," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 159-169.
    6. Benhabib, Jess & Corvalan, Alejandro & Spiegel, Mark M., 2013. "Income and democracy: Evidence from nonlinear estimations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 489-492.

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