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Economic Backwardness in Political Perspective

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  • Acemoglu, Daron
  • Robinson, James A

Abstract

We construct a simple model where political elites may block technological and institutional development, because of a ‘political replacement effect.’ Innovations often erode elites’ incumbency advantage, increasing the likelihood that they will be replaced. Fearing replacement, political elites are unwilling to initiate change, and may even block economic development. We show that elites are unlikely to block development when there is a high degree of political competition, or when they are highly entrenched. It is only when political competition is limited and also their power is threatened that elites will block development. We also show that such blocking is more likely to arise when political stakes are higher, and that external threats may reduce the incentives to block. We argue that this model provides an interpretation for why Britain, Germany and the US industrialized during the nineteenth century, while the landed aristocracy in Russia and Austria-Hungary blocked development.

Suggested Citation

  • Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 2002. "Economic Backwardness in Political Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 3261, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3261
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
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    3. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
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    15. Azam Chaudhry & Phillip Garner, 2006. "Political Competition Between Countries and Economic Growth," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(4), pages 666-682, November.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    development; industrialization; institutions; political economy;

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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