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Income, Democracy, and the Cunning of Reason

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  • Daniel Treisman

Abstract

A long-standing debate pits those who think economic development leads to democratization against those who argue that both result from distant historical causes. Using the most comprehensive estimates of national income available, I show that development is associated with more democratic government--but in the medium run (10 to 20 years). The reason is that, for the most part, higher income only prompts a breakthrough to more democratic politics after the incumbent leader falls from power. And in the short run, faster economic growth increases the leader's odds of survival. This logic--for which I provide evidence at the levels of individual countries and the world--helps explain why democracy advances in waves followed by periods of stasis and why dictators, concerned only to entrench themselves in power, end up preparing their countries to leap to a higher level of democracy when they are eventually overthrown.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Treisman, 2011. "Income, Democracy, and the Cunning of Reason," NBER Working Papers 17132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17132
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Christian Morrisson & Fabrice Murtin, 2009. "The Century of Education," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-42.
    2. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "Why does democracy need education?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June.
    3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2011. "Trust in Public Institutions over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 281-287, May.
    4. Campante, Filipe R. & Chor, Davin, 2014. "“The people want the fall of the regime”: Schooling, political protest, and the economy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 495-517.
    5. Jess Benhabib & Alejandro Corvalen & Mark M. Spiegel, 2011. "Reestablishing the income-democracy nexus," Working Paper Series 2011-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    6. David Epstein & Robert H. Bates & Jack Goldstone & Ida Kristensen & Sharyn O'Halloran, 2004. "Democratic Transitions," CID Working Papers 101, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    7. Sophia Rabe-Hesketh & Anders Skrondal, 2012. "Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 3rd Edition," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 3, number mimus2, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gilli Mario & Li Yuan, 2012. "Citizenry Accountability in Autocracies," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 18(3), pages 1-6, December.
    2. Wadjamsse B. Djezou, 2014. "The Democracy and Economic Growth Nexus: Empirical Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 11(2), pages 251-266, December.
    3. Fabrice Murtin & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "The democratic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 141-181, June.
    4. Che, Yi & Lu, Yi & Tao, Zhigang & Wang, Peng, 2013. "The impact of income on democracy revisited," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 159-169.
    5. Nouha Bougharriou & Walid Benayed & Foued Badr Gabsi, 2016. "On the determinants of democracy in the Arab World," Romanian Economic Journal, Department of International Business and Economics from the Academy of Economic Studies Bucharest, vol. 18(59), pages 25-42, March.
    6. Heid, Benedikt & Langer, Julian & Larch, Mario, 2012. "Income and democracy: Evidence from system GMM estimates," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 166-169.
    7. Sequeira Tiago Neves, 2017. "Democracy and income: taking parameter heterogeneity and cross-country dependency into account," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 17(2), pages 1-19, June.
    8. Benhabib, Jess & Corvalan, Alejandro & Spiegel, Mark M., 2013. "Income and democracy: Evidence from nonlinear estimations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 489-492.
    9. Libman, Alexander & Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten & Yadav, Gaurav, 2013. "Are human rights and economic well-being substitutes? The evidence from migration patterns across the Indian states," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 139-164.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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