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The Political Value of Land: Democratization and Land Prices in Chile


  • Baland, Jean-Marie
  • Robinson, James A


Though models of political economy suggest that changes in political institutions, such as democratization, should have large effects on policies and economic outcomes, the empirical literature finds ambiguous results. It is important, however, to ‘unbundle’ democratic reforms into more specific changes, for instance the introduction of secrecy of balloting, and be more specific about the mechanisms linking these to economic outcomes. To this end we develop a simple model of the economic consequences of the absence of a secret ballot. While providing workers with employment, landlords can also impose some degree of political control. When voting is not secret, landlords can dictate who their workers should vote for. As votes are used by the landlords to accumulate political rents, vote control increases the demand for labor and for land. The introduction of secret ballot should lead to a fall in the price of land in those areas where patron-client relationships and vote control were the strongest. We test the predictions of the model by examining in detail the evolution of land prices in Chile around May 31st. 1958, for which we collected original data. A characteristic of rural Chile at this time was the inquilinaje system, by which a worker, the inquilino, entered into a long term, often hereditary, employment relationship with a landlord, and lived on his landlord’s estate. We show that the introduction of the secret ballot in 1958 had implications for land prices which are perfectly consistent with the predictions of our model. Political rents represented 25% of the value of the land in Chile prior to 1958.

Suggested Citation

  • Baland, Jean-Marie & Robinson, James A, 2011. "The Political Value of Land: Democratization and Land Prices in Chile," CEPR Discussion Papers 8296, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8296

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miriam Bruhn & Francisco Gallego & Massimiliano Onorato, 2010. "Legislative Malapportionment and institutional persistence," Documentos de Trabajo 381, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    2. Dani Rodrik, 1999. "Democracies Pay Higher Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 707-738.
    3. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Democracy and Development: The Devil in the Details," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 319-324, May.
    4. Lindert, Peter H., 2003. "Voice and Growth: Was Churchill Right?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 315-350, June.
    5. Besley, Timothy J. & Persson, Torsten & Sturm, Daniel M, 2005. "Political Competition and Economic Performance: Theory and Evidence from the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 5138, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2008. "Land and Power: Theory and Evidence from Chile," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1737-1765, December.
    7. Sadoulet, Elisabeth, 1992. "Labor-Service Tenancy Contracts in a Latin American Context," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1031-1042, September.
    8. Casey B. Mulligan & Ricard Gil & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2004. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 51-74, Winter.
    9. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2006. "Health and Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 313-318, May.
    10. Dekel, Eddie & Jackson, Matthew O. & Wolinsky, Asher, 2009. "Vote Buying: Legislatures and Lobbying," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 4(2), pages 103-128, July.
    11. Eddie Dekel & Matthew O. Jackson & Asher Wolinsky, 2008. "Vote Buying: General Elections," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 351-380, April.
    12. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Rafael J. Santos, 2013. "The Monopoly Of Violence: Evidence From Colombia," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11, pages 5-44, January.
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    More about this item


    elections; land prices; political institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment

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