IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Political Reforms and Public Policies: Evidence from Agricultural Protection


  • Alessandro Olper
  • Jan Falkowski
  • Johan Swinnen


This paper studies the effect of political regime transitions on public policy using a dataset on global agricultural distortions over 50 years (including data from 74 developing and developed countries over the period 1955-2005). We employ both difference-in-differences regressions and semi-parametric matching methods, exploiting the time series and cross-sectional variation in the data. Our semi-parametric estimates show that parametric methods might underestimate the effect of democracy on public policy. In addition, we find that the effect is asymmetric: agricultural protection increases after a country's transition to democracy of about 9% points, but there is no effect when the political regime shifts from democracy to autocracy. Overall, the evidence supports the redistributive nature of democratic institutions toward the majority and, therefore, it is consistent with the median voter model of political behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Olper & Jan Falkowski & Johan Swinnen, 2009. "Political Reforms and Public Policies: Evidence from Agricultural Protection," LICOS Discussion Papers 25109, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  • Handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:25109

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elias Papaioannou & Gregorios Siourounis, 2008. "Democratisation and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1520-1551, October.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
    3. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
    4. Swinnen, Johan F. M. & Banerjee, Anurag N. & Gorter, Harry de, 2001. "Economic development, institutional change, and the political economy of agricultural protection: An econometric study of Belgium since the 19th century," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 26(1), pages 25-43, October.
    5. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
    6. Giavazzi, Francesco & Tabellini, Guido, 2005. "Economic and political liberalizations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1297-1330, October.
    7. Anderson, Kym, 1995. "Lobbying Incentives and the Pattern of Protection in Rich and Poor Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 401-423, January.
    8. Romain Wacziarg & Karen Horn Welch, 2008. "Trade Liberalization and Growth: New Evidence," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(2), pages 187-231, June.
    9. 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.
    10. Alberto Abadie, 2005. "Semiparametric Difference-in-Differences Estimators," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 1-19.
    11. Dutt, Pushan & Mitra, Devashish, 2002. "Endogenous trade policy through majority voting: an empirical investigation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 107-133, October.
    12. Bates, Robert H., 1983. "Patterns of market intervention in agrarian Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 297-304, November.
    13. Beghin, John C & Kherallah, Mylene, 1994. "Political Institutions and International Patterns of Agricultural Protection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(3), pages 482-489, August.
    14. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
    15. Swinnen, Johan F. M. & Gorter, Harry de & Rausser, Gordon C. & Banerjee, Anurag N., 2000. "The political economy of public research investment and commodity policies in agriculture: an empirical study," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 22(2), pages 111-122, March.
    16. Dani Rodrik & Romain Wacziarg, 2005. "Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 50-55, May.
    17. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir & John Van Reenen, 2004. "Evaluating the Employment Impact of a Mandatory Job Search Program," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 569-606, June.
    18. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    19. de Haan, Jakob & Sturm, Jan-Egbert, 2003. "Does more democracy lead to greater economic freedom? New evidence for developing countries," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 547-563, September.
    20. O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj & Taylor, Alan M., 2006. "Democracy and Protectionism," CEPR Discussion Papers 5698, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    21. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    22. De Gorter, Harry & Swinnen, Johan, 2002. "Political economy of agricultural policy," Handbook of Agricultural Economics,in: B. L. Gardner & G. C. Rausser (ed.), Handbook of Agricultural Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 36, pages 1893-1943 Elsevier.
    23. Gundlach, Erich & Paldam, Martin, 2009. "A farewell to critical junctures: Sorting out long-run causality of income and democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 340-354, September.
    24. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    25. 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.
    26. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    27. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
    28. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, March.
    29. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew Warner, 1995. "Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 1-118.
    30. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
    31. Olper, Alessandro & Raimondi, Valentina, 2008. "Consitutional Rules and Agricultural Policy Outcomes," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 43870, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    32. Sascha O. Becker & Andrea Ichino, 2002. "Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(4), pages 358-377, November.
    33. Milner, Helen V. & Kubota, Keiko, 2005. "Why the Move to Free Trade? Democracy and Trade Policy in the Developing Countries," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(01), pages 107-143, January.
    34. Gary S. Becker, 1983. "A Theory of Competition Among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400.
    35. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir & John Van Reenen, 2001. "Evaluating the employment impact of a mandatory job search assistance program," IFS Working Papers W01/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    36. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kym Anderson & Gordon Rausser & Johan Swinnen, 2013. "Political Economy of Public Policies: Insights from Distortions to Agricultural and Food Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(2), pages 423-477, June.
    2. Yuan Li & Bo Xiong & John C Beghin, 2017. "The Political Economy of Food Standard Determination: International Evidence from Maximum Residue Limits," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Nontariff Measures and International Trade, chapter 14, pages 239-267 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Paola Giuliano & Prachi Mishra & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2013. "Democracy and Reforms: Evidence from a New Dataset," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 179-204, October.
    4. Giuliano, Paola & Mishra, Prachi & Spilimbergo, Antonio, 2009. "Democracy and Reforms," IZA Discussion Papers 4032, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Jan Fałkowski & Alessandro Olper, 2014. "Political competition and policy choices: the evidence from agricultural protection," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 45(2), pages 143-158, March.
    6. Olper, Alessandro & Raimondi, Valentina, 2013. "Electoral rules, forms of government and redistributive policy: Evidence from agriculture and food policies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 141-158.
    7. Pieters, Hannah & Curzi, Daniele & Olper, Alessandro & Swinnen, Jo, 2014. "Political Reforms and Food Security," 2014 Third Congress, June 25-27, 2014, Alghero, Italy 173092, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
    8. Fałkowski, Jan & Olper, Alessandro, 2010. "Political competition and support for agriculture," IAMO Forum 2010: Institutions in Transition – Challenges for New Modes of Governance 52697, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO).

    More about this item


    Democratic Reforms; Agricultural Distortions; Comparative;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:25109. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.