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Who has voice in a deliberative democracy? Evidence from transcripts of village parliaments in south India

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  • Ban, Radu
  • Jha, Saumitra
  • Rao, Vijayendra

Abstract

The role of deliberation among citizens to determine and forge agreement on policy is often seen as a crucial feature of democratic government. This paper provides the first large-N empirical evidence on the credibility of voice in a deliberative democracy in an non-laboratory setting, using a unique dataset collected from transcripts of deliberation that occurred between January and September 2003 in 127 functioning village parliaments (gram sabhas) in Southern India. We exploit a natural experiment in the arrangement of India's state borders across ethnolinguistic lines that led exogenously to increased caste fragmentation and a reduced degree of consensus on public goods priorities. We then examine the patterns of deliberation. We reject the presence of pure cheap talk in both heterogeneous and homogeneous villages. Instead, we show that in caste‐fragmented South Indian villages, where there is less village-wide agreement on the relative importance of different public goods, the probability of an individual's highest priority being discussed increases as the household becomes more credible: its preferences approach the pivotal agent in a pure representative democracy, the median household. These effects are lower in ethnically homogeneous villages where there is greater consensus on the prioritization of public goods. Taken together, our results suggest that India's village parliaments, rather than being mere talking shops or being entirely captured by elites, seem instead to be both democratically representative and to be assigning roles to credible agents in their deliberative processes.

Suggested Citation

  • Ban, Radu & Jha, Saumitra & Rao, Vijayendra, 2012. "Who has voice in a deliberative democracy? Evidence from transcripts of village parliaments in south India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 428-438.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:99:y:2012:i:2:p:428-438
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2012.05.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ronelle BURGER & Indraneel DASGUPTA & Trudy OWENS, 2015. "Why Pay NGOs to Involve the Community?," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(1), pages 7-31, March.
    2. Rao, Vijayendra & Ananthpur, Kripa & Malik, Kabir, 2017. "The Anatomy of Failure: An Ethnography of a Randomized Trial to Deepen Democracy in Rural India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 481-497.
    3. Raja Timilsina & Koji Kotani & Yoshinori Nakagawa & Tatsuyoshi Saijo Saijo, 2017. "Can deliberative democracy resolve intergenerational sustainability dilemma?," Working Papers SDES-2017-20, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management, revised Oct 2017.
    4. Federica VIGANO & Andrea SALUSTRI, 2015. "Matching profit and Non-profit Needs: How NPOs and Cooperative Contribute to Growth in Time of Crisis. A Quantitative Approach," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(1), pages 157-178, March.
    5. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2017. "Direct democracy and resource allocation: Experimental evidence from Afghanistan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 199-213.
    6. Astrid SIMILON, 2015. "Self-Regulation Systems for NPO Coordination: Strenghts and Weaknesses of Label and Umbrella Mechanisms," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(1), pages 89-104, March.
    7. Sheely, Ryan, 2015. "Mobilization, Participatory Planning Institutions, and Elite Capture: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 251-266.
    8. Sanyal,Paromita & Rao,Vijayendra & Prabhakar,Umang, 2015. "Oral democracy and women?s oratory competency in Indian village assemblies : a qualitative analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7416, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Deliberation; Inequality; Democracy; Local government; India;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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