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The Origins of Democracy: A Model with Application to Ancient Greece

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  • Fleck, Robert K
  • Hanssen, F Andrew

Abstract

This paper seeks to provide an improved understanding of the origins of democracy. It begins by developing a theoretical model to demonstrate how exogenous economic conditions can influence the incentives to establish democratic institutions. The model predicts that democratic institutions will expand where they mitigate important time-inconsistency problems and, therefore, encourage investment. Exogenous conditions determine the magnitude of those time-inconsistency problems and, hence, the likelihood of democracy. A comparison of ancient Greek city-states suggests that the conditions under which democracy first emerged support the model. Other potential applications are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Fleck, Robert K & Hanssen, F Andrew, 2006. "The Origins of Democracy: A Model with Application to Ancient Greece," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 115-146, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2006:v:49:i:1:p:115-46
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/501088
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    1. Anthony Bottomley, 1963. "The Effect of the Common Ownership of Land upon Resource Allocation in Tripolitania," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1), pages 91-95.
    2. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    4. Alston, Lee J & Libecap, Gary D & Schneider, Robert, 1996. "The Determinants and Impact of Property Rights: Land Titles on the Brazilian Frontier," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 25-61, April.
    5. Barzel, Yoram, 1992. "Confiscation by the Ruler: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Lending in the Middle Ages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 1-13, April.
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