Democracy to the road: the political economy of potholes
Are dictatorships more prone to build and maintain roads? This paper identifies a puzzling fact: countries that are more democratic tend to have roads in worse conditions than less democratic countries. Using lagged values of a democracy index to instrument for democracy in 1980 yields higher estimates of the magnitude of the association between democracy and bad roads. Instruments based on climate, population, and education yield similar results. The evidence points to a negative causal relationship from democracy to road quality. The author also finds that changes to a more democratic government are associated with slower growth of the road network. The author advances four non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that can explain the results and find support for one of them: dictatorships prefer a better highway network ready for external and internal military intervention.
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