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Dynamic enfranchisement

  • Jack, William
  • Lagunoff, Roger

Why would a political elite voluntarily dilute its political power by extending the franchise? This paper develops a dynamic recursive framework for studying voter enfranchisement. We study properties of dynamic enfranchisement games, 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 capital stock, a public good, or the likelihood of an insurrection. Policies are determined by the median voter of a potentially restricted franchise. The enfranchised group can choose, through its median voter, to expand the set of citizens with voting rights. In this way, each period's median voter can effectively delegate decision authority to a new median in the next period. We characterize the equilibria of a dynamic enfranchisement game by its 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 in each of 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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 90 (2006)
Issue (Month): 4-5 (May)
Pages: 551-572

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:90:y:2006:i:4-5:p:551-572
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Roger Lagunoff, 2006. "Dynamic Stability and Reform of Political Institutions," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000051, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-30, March.
  3. Roger Lagunoff, 2005. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Game Theory and Information 0501003, EconWPA.
  4. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinksi, 1995. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-01, McMaster University.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Paul Klein & Per Krusell & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2004. "Time-Consistent Public Expenditures," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000652, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did The West Extend The Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, And Growth In Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199, November.
  9. William Jack & Roger Lagunoff, 2003. "Dynamic Enfranchisement," Public Economics 0306002, EconWPA, revised 01 Jul 2003.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
  11. Kevin Roberts, 1999. "Dynamic Voting in Clubs," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 367, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
  17. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
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