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Income, Democracy, and the Cunning of Reason

  • Daniel Treisman

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17132.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17132.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17132
Note: POL
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  1. Campante, Filipe R. & Chor, Davin, 2011. ""The People Want the Fall of the Regime": Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy," Working Paper Series rwp11-018, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Christian Morrisson & Fabrice Murtin, 2009. "The Century of Education," CEP Discussion Papers dp0934, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2011. "Trust in Public Institutions over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 281-87, May.
  4. Jess Benhabib & Alejandro Corvalan & Mark M. Spiegel, 2011. "Reestablishing the income-democracy nexus," Working Paper Series 2011-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Sophia Rabe-Hesketh & Anders Skrondal, 2012. "Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 3rd Edition," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 3, number mimus2, November.
  6. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "Why does democracy need education?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June.
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