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Don't make war, make elections: Franchise extension and violence in XIXth-century Colombia

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  • Leopoldo Fergusson
  • Juan F. Vargas

Abstract

This paper studies the effect of strengthening democracy, as captured by an increase in voting rights, on the incidence of violent civil conflict in nineteenth-century Colombia. Empirically studying the relationship between democracy and conflict is challenging, not only because of conceptual problems in defining and measuring democracy, but also because political institutions and violence are jointly determined. We take advantage of an experiment of history to examine the impact of one simple, measurable dimension of democracy (the size of the franchise) on conflict, while at the same time attempting to overcome the identification problem. In 1853, Colombia established universal male suffrage. Using a simple difference-indifferences specification at the municipal level, we find that municipalities where more voters were enfranchised relative to their population experienced fewer violent political battles while the reform was in effect. The results are robust to including a number of additional controls. Moreover, we investigate the potential mechanisms driving the results. In particular, we look at which components of the proportion of new voters in 1853 explain the results, and we examine if results are stronger in places with more political competition and state capacity. We interpret our findings as suggesting that violence in nineteenth-century Colombia was a technology for political elites to compete for the rents from power, and that democracy constituted an alternative way to compete which substituted violence.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan F. Vargas, 2013. "Don't make war, make elections: Franchise extension and violence in XIXth-century Colombia," Documentos de Trabajo 010545, Universidad del Rosario.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000092:010545
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    File URL: http://repository.urosario.edu.co/bitstream/handle/10336/10953/10545.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mario Chacón & James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik, 2011. "When is Democracy an Equilibrium? Theory and Evidence from Colombia’s La Violencia," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 55(3), pages 366-396, June.
    2. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, May.
    3. Jorge Tovar, 2007. "La Manumisión en Colombia: 1821 -1851. Un análisis cuantitativo," Documentos CEDE 004387, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. No haga la guerra, haga elecciones
      by Guest blogger in Hacia el desarrollo efectivo on 2013-05-28 17:40:52
    2. Development that Works: Don’t make war, make elections
      by Guest blogger in Eval Central on 2013-05-28 17:38:53

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Uribe-Castro, Mateo, 2019. "Expropriation of church wealth and political conflict in 19th century Colombia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    2. Galindo-Silva, Hector, 2021. "Political openness and armed conflict: Evidence from local councils in Colombia," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    3. Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubin & Nelson A. Ruiz & Juan F. Vargas, 2021. "The Real Winner's Curse," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 65(1), pages 52-68, January.
    4. Gabriel Angarita Tovar, 2017. "Choques de precios y elecciones: el café y la democracia en Colombia," Documentos CEDE 015608, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    5. Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos Molina & James A. Robinson & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Long Shadow of the Past: Political Economy of Regional Inequality in Colombia," Documentos CEDE 015445, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    6. Jean Lacroix, 2020. "Ballots instead of Bullets? The effect of the Voting Rights Act on political violence," Working Papers CEB 20-007, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Democracy; Civil Conflict; Colombia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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