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Political Legitimacy and Technology Adoption

  • Metin M. Cosgel
  • Thomas J. Miceli
  • Jared Rubin

A fundamental question of economic and technological history is why some civilizations adopted new and important technologies and others did not. In this paper, we construct a simple political-economy model that suggests that rulers may not accept a productivity-enhancing technology when it negatively affects an agent's ability to provide the ruler legitimacy. However, when other sources of legitimacy emerge, the ruler will accept the technology as long as the new legitimizing source is not negatively affected. This insight helps explain the initial blocking but eventual accepting of the printing press in the Ottoman Empire and industrialization in tsarist Russia.

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Article provided by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen in its journal Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics.

Volume (Year): 168 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 339-361

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Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(201209)168:3_339:plata_2.0.tx_2-p
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  1. Steven Nafziger, 2008. "Democracy Under the Tsars? The Case of the Zemstvo," Department of Economics Working Papers 2008-23, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  2. Bridgman, Benjamin R. & Livshits, Igor D. & MacGee, James C., 2007. "Vested interests and technology adoption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 649-666, April.
  3. Cosgel, Metin & Miceli, Thomas & Ahmed, Rasha, 2009. "Law, state power, and taxation in Islamic history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 704-717, September.
  4. Canton, Erik J. F. & de Groot, Henri L. F. & Nahuis, Richard, 2002. "Vested interests, population ageing and technology adoption," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 631-652, November.
  5. Joerg Baten & Jan Zanden, 2008. "Book production and the onset of modern economic growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 217-235, September.
  6. Jared Rubin, 2011. "Institutions, the Rise of Commerce and the Persistence of Laws: Interest Restrictions in Islam and Christianity," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1310-1339, December.
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