A Theory of Trade Policy Under Dictatorship and Democratization
This paper develops a new model of trade policy under dictatorship and democratization. The paper makes two contributions. One is to provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between political institutions and economic performance by studying the endogenous interaction between the form of government and trade policy. If a ruling elite own a factor that is scarce then democratization goes hand in hand with trade liberalization and an increase in economic efficiency, as argued by classical scholars. But if the elite own an abundant factor then democratization is accompanied by an increase in protectionism and a reduction in e¢ ciency. The paper also characterizes the circumstances under which a dictatorship can use trade policy to forestall democratization. The paper?s second contribution is to show how trade policy can be manipulated to maintain the status quo in the face of world price shocks, thus opening the door to a re-examination of trade policy responses to technology shocks. The model is used to explain an interesting episode of trade policymaking between 1815 and 1846, during which time Britain substantially liberalized trade while Prussia, on the other side of the grain market, signi?cantly increased protectionism. It is also used to shed light on the wide-spread imposition of export restrictions in response to the 2007-08 food crisis.
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