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The Rise and Fall of Elites: A Theory of Economic Development and Social Polarization in Rent-seeking Societies

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  • Verdier, Thierry

Abstract

This paper analyses how political institutions, wealth distribution and economic activities affect each other during the process of development. A simple general equilibrium model of rent-seeking political elites with two productive sectors (modern and traditional) is presented. Political participation is viewed as a costly activity. We show what drives entry into politics and how the size of the elite affects the level of distortions. The model also highlights the role played by the initial distribution of wealth in determining the long-run pattern of political participation and economic performance. We show why one society may converge to an equilibrium with low distortions and social equality, while others may end up with an institutional framework that brings about high distortions and social polarization. The model is then extended to account for the provision of public goods, to analyse the effects of rent-seeking on technological change, and to allow for random shocks in intergenerational transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • Verdier, Thierry, 1996. "The Rise and Fall of Elites: A Theory of Economic Development and Social Polarization in Rent-seeking Societies," CEPR Discussion Papers 1495, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:1495
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    Cited by:

    1. Christophe Ehrhart, 2009. "The effects of inequality on growth: a survey of the theoretical and empirical literature," Working Papers 107, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    2. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico, 2017. "De jure and de facto determinants of power: evidence from Mississippi," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 321-345, December.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
    4. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2006. "Inequality, Lobbying, and Resource Allocation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 257-279, March.
    5. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico, 2011. "Race v. Suffrage. The Determinants of Development in Mississippi," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 071, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    6. Josten, Stefan Dietrich & Truger, Achim, 2003. "The political economy of growth and distribution: A theoretical critique," WSI Working Papers 111, The Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), Hans-Böckler-Foundation.
    7. Boschini, Anne D., 2006. "The political economy of industrialisation," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 887-907, December.
    8. repec:mod:depeco:0001 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Development; Distribution; Elites; Growth; Political Economy; Rent-seeking;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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