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When is Democracy an Equilibrium? Theory and Evidence from Colombia's La Violencia

Author

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  • Chacón, Mario
  • Robinson, James A
  • Torvik, Ragnar

Abstract

The conventional wisdom in political science is that for a democracy to be consoliated, all groups must have a chance to attain power. If they do not then they will subvert democracy and choose to fight for power. In this paper we show that this wisdom is, if not totally incorrect, seriously incomplete. This is so because although the probability of winning an election increases with the size of a group, so does the probability of winning a fight. Thus in a situation where all groups have a high chance of winning an election, they may also have a high chance of winning a fight. Indeed, in a natural model, we show that democracy may never be consolidated in such a situation. Rather, democracy may only be stable when one group is dominant. We provide a test of a key aspect of our model using data from La Violencia, a political conflict in Colombia during the years 1946-1950 between the Liberal and Conservative parties. Consistent with our results, and contrary to the conventional wisdom, we show that fighting between the parties was more intense in municipalities where the support of the parties was more evenly balanced.

Suggested Citation

  • Chacón, Mario & Robinson, James A & Torvik, Ragnar, 2006. "When is Democracy an Equilibrium? Theory and Evidence from Colombia's La Violencia," CEPR Discussion Papers 5679, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5679
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Manuel Fernández, 2012. "Violencia y derechos de propiedad: El caso de la violencia en Colombia," ENSAYOS SOBRE POLÍTICA ECONÓMICA, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ESPE, vol. 30(69), pages 112-147, December.
    2. Juan F Vargas, 2009. "Military empowerment and civilian targeting in civil war," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 005282, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    conflict; democracy;

    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

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