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Decentralized Despotism? Indirect Colonial Rule Undermines Contemporary Democratic Attitudes

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  • Lechler, Marie
  • McNamee, Lachlan

Abstract

This paper identifies indirect and direct colonial rule as causal factors in shaping support for democracy by exploiting a within-country natural experiment in Namibia. Throughout the colonial era, northern Namibia was indirectly ruled through a system of appointed indigenous traditional elites whereas colonial authorities directly ruled southern Namibia. This variation originally stems from where the progressive extension of direct German control was stopped after a rinderpest epidemic in the 1890s, and thus constitutes plausibly exogenous within-country variation in the form of colonial rule. Using this spatial discontinuity, we find that individuals in indirectly ruled areas are less likely to support democracy and turnout at elections. We explore potential mechanisms and find suggestive evidence that the greater influence of traditional leaders in indirectly ruled areas has socialized individuals to accept non-electoral bases of political authority.

Suggested Citation

  • Lechler, Marie & McNamee, Lachlan, 2017. "Decentralized Despotism? Indirect Colonial Rule Undermines Contemporary Democratic Attitudes," Discussion Papers in Economics 36388, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:36388
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    File URL: https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/36388/1/Decentralized.pdf
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    1. Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-Term Consequences," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 693-713, November.
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    3. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2009. "Democratic Capital: The Nexus of Political and Economic Change," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 88-126, July.
    4. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth Lee Sokoloff, 2002. "Factor Endowments, Inequality, and Paths of Development Among New World Economies," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Fall 2002), pages 41-110, August.
    5. Andrew Gelman & Guido Imbens, 2014. "Why High-order Polynomials Should not be Used in Regression Discontinuity Designs," NBER Working Papers 20405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    7. Daron Acemoglu & Tristan Reed & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(2), pages 319-368.
    8. Lange, Matthew K., 2004. "British Colonial Legacies and Political Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 905-922, June.
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    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:106:y:2012:i:03:p:471-494_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Indirect Colonial Rule; Decentralized Despotism; Political Attitudes; Namibia; Democratic Institutions; Spatial RDD;

    JEL classification:

    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • N27 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N47 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Africa; Oceania
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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