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Dynamic Enfranchisement

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  • Roger Lagunoff
  • William Jack

Abstract

Why would a political elite voluntarily dilute its political power by extending the voting franchise? This paper develops a dynamic recursive framework for studying voter enfranchisement. We specify a class of dynamic games in which political rights evolve over time. Each period, private decisions of citizens co-mingle with government policies to act upon a state variable such as a capital stock, a public good, or the likelihood of an insurrection. Policies are determined by a pivotal decision maker in a potentially restricted franchise. The pivotal decision maker can also delegate decision authority to a new decision maker in the subsequent period. We describe conditions under which an equilibrium of this "dictator delegation game" corresponds to a majority vote decision by the enfranchised group to expand the set of citizens with voting rights. Under these conditions, each period's pivotal decision maker is a median voter who can designate authority to a new median of a larger voting franchise in the next period. We characterize the equilibria by their Euler equations. In certain games, the equilibria generate paths that display a gradual, sometimes uneven history of enfranchisement that is roughly consistent with observed patterns of extensions. Our main result shows that extensions of the franchise occur in a given period if and only if the private decisions of the citizenry have a net positive spillover to the dynamic payoff of the current median voter. The size of the extension depends on the size of the spillover. Since the class of games we study can accommodate a number of proposed explanations for franchise extension (e.g., the threat of insurrection, or ideological or class conflict within the elite, etc), the result suggests a common causal mechanism for these seemingly different explanations. We describe a number of parametric environments that correspond to the various explanations, and show how the mechanism works in each.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2004 Meeting Papers with number 466.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:466

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Keywords: Dynamic games; voter enfranchisement; franchise extension; dictator delegation game;

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson, 1999. "A Theory of Political Transitions," Working papers 99-26, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Barbera, S. & Maschler, M. & Shalev, J., 2001. "Voting for Voters: A Model of Electoral Evolution," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 40-78, October.
  3. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  4. Roger Lagunoff, 2006. "Dynamic Stability and Reform of Political Institutions," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000051, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  6. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  7. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
  8. Paul Klein & Per Krusell & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2004. "Time-Consistent Public Expenditures," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000652, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Alessandro Lizzeri & Nicola Persico, 2004. "Why Did the Elites Extend the Suffrage? Democracy and the Scope of Government, With an Application to Britain's "Age of Reform"," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 705-763, May.
  10. Roger Lagunoff, 2005. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Game Theory and Information 0501003, EconWPA.
  11. John P. Conley & Akram Temimi, 2001. "Endogenous Enfranchisement When Groups' Preferences Conflict," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 79-102, February.
  12. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1998. "Why did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality and Growth in Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 1797, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Kevin Roberts, 1999. "Dynamic Voting in Clubs," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 367, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  14. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-30, March.
  15. Justman, Moshe & Gradstein, Mark, 1999. "The Industrial Revolution, Political Transition, and the Subsequent Decline in Inequality in 19th-Century Britain," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 109-127, April.
  16. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1986. "The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 533-54, May.
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