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Religious origins of democracies and dictatorships


  • Grigoriadis, Theocharis


In this paper, I argue that religion matters for the emergence of democracies and dictatorships. Religion is defined as a stochastically set demand for public goods. Different types of religious collectives reflect different tradeoffs between centralized resource distribution and market rewards. Religions are defined as collectivist, when their respective collectives facilitate the hierarchical provision of common pool resources toward their members at the expense of market incentives. Religions are defined as individualist, when their respective collectives recruit and preserve their members on the basis of market incentives. Islam, Orthodoxy and Catholicism are treated as collectivist religions, whereas Judaism and Protestantism as individualist ones. I provide a historical overview that designates the Jewish kibbutz as the collective of democracy and the Russian-Orthodox monastery as the collective of dictatorship. Assuming a collectivist economy, I solve the radical government and modernization stochastic games. I find that modernization occurs in a collectivist economy when the threat of a radical government is imminent and when the leader has high extraction rents over the economy. In order to stay in power, the leader credibly commits to provide more public goods in the future, and thus modernization occurs. Underdevelopment occurs at intermediate levels of state enforcement, modernization at low levels and centralization at high levels of state enforcement. The emergence of a radical government is more likely in a collectivist rather than in an individualist economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Grigoriadis, Theocharis, 2013. "Religious origins of democracies and dictatorships," Discussion Papers 2013/16, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:201316

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," Discussion Papers 07-048, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2003. "Social insurance competition between Bismarck and Beveridge," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 181-196, July.
    3. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1111-1159.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    5. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, May.
    6. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 2001. "Markov Perfect Equilibrium: I. Observable Actions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 100(2), pages 191-219, October.
    7. Acemoglu, Daron, 2003. "Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 620-652, December.
    8. Ruffle, Bradley J. & Sosis, Richard, 2006. "Cooperation and the in-group-out-group bias: A field test on Israeli kibbutz members and city residents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 147-163, June.
    9. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:53:y:1959:i:01:p:69-105_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    democracy; dictatorship; collectivism; individualism; modernization; Orthodoxy; Judaism;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • P21 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Planning, Coordination, and Reform
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy
    • P32 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Collectives; Communes; Agricultural Institutions
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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