Government Spending and Taxation in Democracies and Autocracies
The paper develops a theoretical rationale for a non-linear relationship between the level of democracy and government spending. A model is presented showing why and how political participation influences the spending behavior of opportunistic governments that can choose an optimal combination of rents and public goods to attract political support. If the level of democracy remains low, governments rationally prefer rents as an instrument to assure political support. With increasing democratic participation, however, rents become an increasingly expensive (per unit of political support) instrument while the provision of public goods becomes more and more efficient in ensuring the incumbent government's survival in power. As a consequence, an increase in democracy, which drives a country from a pure autocracy to a semi-participatory system, tends to reduce government spending, while an increase in political participation from a semi-participatory country to a full democracy tends to raise the size of the public sector.
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