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Roots of Autocracy

Listed author(s):
  • Oded Galor
  • Marc Klemp

This research explores the origins of the variation in the prevalence and nature of political institutions across globe. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that variation in the inherent diversity across human societies, as determined in the course of the exodus of Homo sapiens from Africa tens of thousands of years ago, shaped the nature of political institutions across regions and societies. The study establishes that, while human diversity has amplified the beneficial e?ects of institutions, mitigating the adverse e?ects of non-cohesiveness, its simultaneous contribution to heterogeneity in cognitive and physical traits has fostered the scope for domination, leading to the formation and persistence of autocratic institutions. A larger degree of human diversity within societies diminished cohesiveness and therefore stimulated the emergence of institutions that have mitigated the adverse e?ects of non-cohesiveness on productivity. However, the dual impact of human diversity on the emergence of inequality and class stratification have diverted the nature of the emerging institutions towards extractive, autocratic ones. Developing a novel geo-referenced dataset of genetic diversity and ethnographic characteristics among ethnic groups across the globe, the analysis establishes that genetic diversity contributed to the emergence of autocratic pre-colonial institutions. Moreover, the findings suggest that the contribution of diversity to these pre-colonial autocratic institutions has plausibly operated through its dual e?ect on the formation of institutions and class stratification. Furthermore, reflecting the persistence of institutional, cultural, and genetic characteristics, the spatial distribution of genetic diversity across the globe has contributed to the contemporary variation in the degree of autocracy across countries.

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File URL: https://www.brown.edu/academics/economics/sites/brown.edu.academics.economics/files/uploads/2015-7_paper_2.pdf
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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2015-7.

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Date of creation: 2015
Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2015-7
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Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
  2. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2003-2041, August.
  3. James Fenske, 2013. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(12), pages 1363-1390, December.
  4. Mayshary, Joram & Moav, Omer & Neeman, Zvika & Pascali, Luigi, 2015. "Cereals Appropriability and Hierarchy," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 238, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  5. Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "The Transmission of Democracy: From the Village to the Nation-State," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 86-92, May.
  6. 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.
  7. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2013. "The 'Out of Africa' Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 1-46, February.
  8. Anastasia Litina, 2014. "The Geographical Origins of Early State Formation," CREA Discussion Paper Series 14-28, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
  9. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2009. "Inequality in Landownership, the Emergence of Human-Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 143-179.
  10. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2012. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1508-1539, June.
  11. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2008. "Human Genetic Diversity and Comparative Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 6824, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. A. Alesina & P. Giuliano., 2016. "Culture and Institutions," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 11.
  13. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
  14. James Fenske, 2014. "Ecology, Trade, And States In Pre-Colonial Africa," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 612-640, 06.
  15. repec:oup:jeurec:v:15:y:2017:i:1:p:1-53. is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2013. "Genetic Diversity and the Origins of Cultural Fragmentation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 528-533, May.
  17. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen & Nicolai Kaarsen & Asger Moll Wingender, 2017. "Irrigation and Autocracy," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 1-53.
  18. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2006. "Das Human-Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 85-117.
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