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Dynamic Enfranchisement

  • Roger Lagunoff
  • William Jack

Why would a political elite voluntarily dilute its political power by extending the voting franchise? This paper develops a dynamic recursive framework for studying voter enfranchisement. We specify a class of dynamic games in which political rights evolve over time. Each period, private decisions of citizens co-mingle with government policies to act upon a state variable such as a capital stock, a public good, or the likelihood of an insurrection. Policies are determined by a pivotal decision maker in a potentially restricted franchise. The pivotal decision maker can also delegate decision authority to a new decision maker in the subsequent period. We describe conditions under which an equilibrium of this "dictator delegation game" corresponds to a majority vote decision by the enfranchised group to expand the set of citizens with voting rights. Under these conditions, each period's pivotal decision maker is a median voter who can designate authority to a new median of a larger voting franchise in the next period. We characterize the equilibria by their Euler equations. In certain games, the equilibria generate paths that display a gradual, sometimes uneven history of enfranchisement that is roughly consistent with observed patterns of extensions. Our main result shows that extensions of the franchise occur in a given period if and only if the private decisions of the citizenry have a net positive spillover to the dynamic payoff of the current median voter. The size of the extension depends on the size of the spillover. Since the class of games we study can accommodate a number of proposed explanations for franchise extension (e.g., the threat of insurrection, or ideological or class conflict within the elite, etc), the result suggests a common causal mechanism for these seemingly different explanations. We describe a number of parametric environments that correspond to the various explanations, and show how the mechanism works in each.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2004 Meeting Papers with number 466.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:466
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

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  1. Roger Lagunoff, 2007. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000876, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. William Jack & Roger Lagunoff, 2003. "Dynamic Enfranchisement," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000030, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Roberts, Kevin, 2015. "Dynamic voting in clubs," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 320-335.
  4. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinski, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96.
  5. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1998. "Why did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality and Growth in Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 1797, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Lagunoff, Roger, 2009. "Dynamic stability and reform of political institutions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 569-583, November.
  7. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-30, March.
  8. John P. Conley & Akram Temimi, 2001. "Endogenous Enfranchisement When Groups' Preferences Conflict," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 79-102, February.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson, 1999. "A Theory of Political Transitions," Working papers 99-26, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  10. Salvador Barberà & Michael Maschler & Jonathan Shalev, 1998. "Voting for Voters: A Model of Electoral Evolution," Game Theory and Information 9804001, EconWPA.
  11. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
  12. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  13. Justman, Moshe & Gradstein, Mark, 1999. "The Industrial Revolution, Political Transition, and the Subsequent Decline in Inequality in 19th-Century Britain," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 109-127, April.
  14. Fleck, Robert K & Hanssen, F Andrew, 2006. "The Origins of Democracy: A Model with Application to Ancient Greece," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 115-46, April.
  15. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1986. "The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 533-54, May.
  16. Klein, Paul & Krusell, Per & Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor, 2004. "Time Consistent Public Expenditures," CEPR Discussion Papers 4582, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
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