Direct Democracy and Resource Allocation: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan
Direct democracy is designed to better align policy outcomes with citizen preferences. Using a randomized field experiment in 250 villages across Afghanistan, we compare outcomes of the selection of village-level development projects through secret-ballot referenda and through consultation meetings. We find that elites exert more influence over resource allocation decisions in consultation meetings as compared with referenda. Referenda also improve public satisfaction. The results indicate that the use of direct democracy in public resource allocation mitigates elite capture and results in more legitimate outcomes than those produced by less representative consultative processes.
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