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The Political Economy of Redistribution under Democracy

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  • Adam Przeworski
  • Jess Benhabib

Abstract

We ask what redistributions of income and assets are feasible in a democracy, given the initial assets and their distribution. The question is motivated by the possibility that if redistribution is insufficient for the poor or excessive for the rich, they may turn against democracy. In turn, if no redistribution simultaneously satisfies the poor and the wealthy, democracy cannot be sustained. Hence, the corollary question concerns the conditions under which democracy is sustainable. Since decisions to save are endogenous, we solve explicitly for the current growth rates given any time path of future tax rates. We find that the optimal path of redistribution chosen by the median voter under the constraint of rebellion by the poor or the wealthy consists of redistributing as much as possible as soon as possible. However, this path is time inconsistent unless voters punish governments that deviate from their promises. Democracies survive in wealthy societies, with a lower average capital stock when they are more equal.

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Przeworski & Jess Benhabib, 2004. "The Political Economy of Redistribution under Democracy," 2004 Meeting Papers 58, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:58
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1993. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1184-1198, December.
    2. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-1250.
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    5. Helliwell, John F., 1994. "Empirical Linkages Between Democracy and Economic Growth," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 225-248, April.
    6. Benhabib, Jess & Rustichini, Aldo, 1996. "Social Conflict and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 125-142, March.
    7. Li, Hongyi & Squire, Lyn & Zou, Heng-fu, 1998. "Explaining International and Intertemporal Variations in Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 26-43, January.
    8. Chamley, Christophe, 1985. "Efficient Taxation in a Stylized Model of Intertemporal General Equilibrium," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(2), pages 451-468, June.
    9. Benhabib, Jess & Velasco, Andres, 1996. "On the optimal and best sustainable taxes in an open economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 135-154, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Przeworski, Adam & Rivero, Gonzalo & Xi, Tianyang, 2015. "Elections as a conflict processing mechanism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 235-248.
    2. Markus Brückner & Antonio Ciccone, 2011. "Rain and the Democratic Window of Opportunity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 923-947, May.
    3. Vladimir Kühl Teles & Carlos Pereira, 2008. "Political institutions matter for incipient but not for consolidated democracies: a political economy analysis of economic growth," Anais do XXXVI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 36th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 200807211539390, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    4. Facundo Piguillem & Anderson Schneider, 2013. "Heterogeneous Labor Skills, The Median Voter and Labor Taxes," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(2), pages 332-349, April.
    5. repec:spr:joecth:v:65:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00199-016-1018-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Kirill Borissov & Mikhail Pakhnin, 2018. "Economic growth and property rights on natural resources," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 65(2), pages 423-482, March.
    7. Marco Bassetto & Jess Benhabib, 2006. "Redistribution, Taxes and the Median Voter," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(2), pages 211-223, April.
    8. Joanna Alexopoulos & Tiago V. Cavalcanti, 2010. "Cheap home goods and persistent inequality," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 45(3), pages 417-451, December.
    9. Großer, Jens & Reuben, Ernesto, 2013. "Redistribution and market efficiency: An experimental study," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 39-52.
    10. Antonio Ciccone, 2013. "Estimating the Effect of Transitory Economic Shocks on Civil Conflict," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 4(2).
    11. Chun, Natalie & Hasan, Rana & Rahman, Muhammad Habibur & Ulubaşoğlu, Mehmet A., 2016. "The role of middle class in democratic diffusion," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 536-548.
    12. Deininger, Klaus & Jin, Songqing, 2009. "Securing property rights in transition: Lessons from implementation of China's rural land contracting law," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 22-38, May.
    13. John M. Luiz, 2016. "The Political Economy of Middle-Income Traps: Is South Africa in a Long-Run Growth Trap? The Path to “Bounded Populism”," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 84(1), pages 3-19, March.
    14. Carlo V. FIORIO & Simon MOHUN & Roberto VENEZIANI, 2013. "Social Democracy and Distributive Conflict in the UK, 1950-2010," Departmental Working Papers 2013-09, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano, revised 16 May 2013.
    15. Fabiana Machado & Carlos Scartascini & Mariano Tommasi, 2011. "Political Institutions and Street Protests in Latin America," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 55(3), pages 340-365, June.
    16. repec:gig:joupla:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:5-36 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Pereira, Carlos & Teles, Vladimir Kuhl, 2009. "Political institutions as substitute for democracy: a political economy analysis of economic growth," Textos para discussão 196, FGV/EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    18. Konstantinos Matakos & Dimitrios Xefteris, 2017. "Divide and rule: redistribution in a model with differentiated candidates," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 63(4), pages 867-902, April.
    19. Kirill Borissov & Stéphane Lambrecht, 2009. "Growth and distribution in an AK-model with endogenous impatience," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 39(1), pages 93-112, April.
    20. John Anyanwu & Andrew E. O. Erhijakpor, 2013. "Working Paper 184 - Does Oil Wealth Affect Democracy in Africa?," Working Paper Series 988, African Development Bank.
    21. Loayza, Norman & Rigolini, Jamele & Llorente, Gonzalo, 2012. "Do middle classes bring about institutional reforms?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 440-444.
    22. Benhabib, Jess & Corvalan, Alejandro & Spiegel, Mark M., 2013. "Income and democracy: Evidence from nonlinear estimations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 489-492.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sustainable Democracy; Optimal Taxes;

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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