Brazil Thus he isolates income inequality, mobility of assets, and distribution of political resources as the key variables driving the emergence of democracies. The second data set covers the periodwith which he, by and large, replicates the analysis for a longer time period in order to investigate the causes of the move towards democracy by most Western nations in the beginning of the twentieth century. However, the empirical testing of the model has both strengths and weaknesses. I would argue that institutions are a key reason why this would be the case in the first place. My library Help Advanced Book Search.
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Eloranta, Jari Published by EH. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Reviewed for EH. As such, the book attempts to answer four key questions: 1 How is stable democracy achieved? His book first sets up a testable theoretical framework and then proceeds to engage in empirical analysis and discussion of extensions of the basic model.
The introduction and Chapter 1 provide the key arguments of the study, whereas Chapters 2 and 3 delve into empirical evaluation of the model on the basis of mainly nineteenth and twentieth century data and cases. Moreover, Chapter 4 extends the argument to include the impact of economic growth, trade, and political institutions; Chapter 5 analyzes the interaction between democracy and the size of the public sector; and Chapter 6 examines the threat of rent expropriation vis-? Boix then concludes the book with a brief summary of the findings.
To begin with, the model based on game theory developed in the book is remarkably clear and persuasive. In essence, he argues that political regimes and transitions are the outcome of the preferences and resources of actors in a given society.
Thus he isolates income inequality, mobility of assets, and distribution of political resources as the key variables driving the emergence of democracies.
The logic is as follows: High income equality and capital mobility are characteristics of a democracy, whereas high income inequality and asset specificity for example, the presence of oil provide support for an authoritarian regime. Moreover, a strong repressive elite implies a durable authoritarian regime, yet an abundance of political competition leads to revolutions and civil wars p. In addition, the transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one can be peaceful if there is only a moderate level of economic inequality or the assets are highly mobile p.
Boix argues that the challenge to the ruling elites comes from the lower classes, who wish to change the redistributional equilibrium in the society p. He perceives three possible redistributional outcomes: 1 Right-wing authoritarian regimes, in which practically no transfers take place also, limited taxes ; 2 Democracies, which have more redistribution of wealth, based on the aspirations of the median voter; 3 Revolutionary regimes, which are prone to the follies of nationalization and central planning, eventually leading to corruption and economic stagnation p.
Nonetheless, although at one point he maintains that certain aggregate correlations between the key variables for example, between economic development and democracy may not hold for the pre-Second World War era p. This is certainly an ambitious endeavor and cannot be verified with such a cursory and selective survey of historical cases for example, Chapter 3. In general, Boix criticizes earlier research for being too general in scope i. He illustrates this by focusing on the three key variables inequality, asset specificity, repression costs , citing the U.
Yet, is this a credible model for understanding political transitions? Can we test it? I do not have much to criticize in terms of the model itself for example, the game theoretical modeling or the underlying assumptions , except when it comes to the institutional aspects of the theoretical framework.
However, the empirical testing of the model has both strengths and weaknesses. How does Boix go about doing that? In general, he utilizes panel data regressions extensively, with numerous combinations of dependent usually a binary variable, whether country was or was not a democracy in a given year and independent variables usually various proxies pertaining to income inequality, asset specificity, and political mobilization , and in fact calculates yearly probabilities of democratic transition for the period The second data set covers the period , with which he, by and large, replicates the analysis for a longer time period in order to investigate the causes of the move towards democracy by most Western nations in the beginning of the twentieth century.
He subsequently utilizes more panel data regressions to analyze the redistributional hypotheses arising from his theory in the later chapters. For example, he employs a fairly generous definition of democracy, based on three characteristics: 1 Legislature elected in free multiparty elections; 2 Executive directly or indirectly elected in popular elections, and responsible to voters or legislature; 3 Majority at least 50 percent of adult men allowed to vote p.
For example, the Polity data provides much more variability in the dependent variable score ranging from , complete autocracy, to 10, full democracy. Furthermore, the use of various types of proxies, especially in the analysis of the longer period, for the independent variables is problematic. Even for the more recent period, Boix has to rely on proxies for the measurement of asset specificity, thus utilizing agricultural share of GDP land immobility , ratio of fuel exports over total exports fixed energy production , years of schooling human capital , and economic concentration as variables.
This raises several issues that cannot all, however, be discussed here due to space constraints. For example, how mobile is human capital? He seems determined to maintain throughout the volume that income is not a relevant measure to explain any aspect of the phenomena under evaluation see e. He also does not give any justification for his choice of control variables or dedicate too much attention to analyzing them, even though the role of religion as an explanatory force which even a cursory perusal of the regression statistics would suggest could have been investigated further p.
Moreover, why measure pre-Second World War income inequality via the distribution of agrarian property and the quality of human capital? Despite these weaknesses, the results seem to support the underlying model quite well and are certainly persuasive at least. Chapter 3, however, does not leave the reader as confident. Second, there seems to be no clear justification for focusing on just these two cases per se, or on these two particular time periods.
The discussion of racial voting barriers in the U. In fact, Switzerland, one of the cases scoring a full 10 on the Polity scale like the United States every since year throughout the nineteenth century, did not allow women the right to vote until ! Thus, following Juan Linz, I think it would strengthen the empirical dimension of the book to allow for more flexibility in analyzing and interpreting the regime types, such as using the sliding Polity scale.
Furthermore, it would be interesting to test for certain threshold levels for the various variables, since it is very difficult to conceptualize low versus moderate levels of income inequality or variability between limited versus full democracies.
The theoretical insights of the book on institutions also leave something to be desired. For example, Boix claims that institutions formal or informal do not matter in the progress towards democracy if income equality and asset mobility are both high p. I would argue that institutions are a key reason why this would be the case in the first place.
Again, I find this to be a curiously minimalist statement given the extensive work by Avner Greif, Douglass C. North et al. Boix tries to incorporate an element of institutional analysis, for example, in the section attempting explain the size of general and central government revenue, total spending, nonmilitary spending etc.
However, the use of the democracy variable or constitutional dummies is simply not enough p. Moreover, although the regressions on government spending seem fairly robust overall, their R-squared values are often low. The introduction of other variables, arising from numerous competing explanations on the size of government, might improve the fit.
In addition, the author does not spend much time discussing, for example, panel data techniques he uses OLS with panel corrected standard errors , possible specification problems, or the risk of spurious correlation due to, for example, the possible presence of unit roots. Finally, Chapter 6 on rent expropriation leaves this reader somewhat confused — why is rent seeking necessarily synonymous with corruption?
Or, concerning the concluding chapter, what are the concrete policy recommendations arising from this, at times brilliant, study? In the aggregate, this study is definitely a worthwhile read, especially its theoretical section. The notion that income inequality, the mobility of assets, and the distribution of political resources are the key variables driving the transitions to democracy is persuasive. However, some of the choices made in the testing of these hypotheses can be challenged and decrease the overall value of the empirical findings.
Yet, as usual, only the lack of data stands in our way. Notes: 1. See especially Robert A. Dahl, On Democracy. See, for example, Juan J. His research interests include corporate political action in the long run, defense economics and the financing of wars, as well as the analysis of government spending in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. University, Subject s :.
Democracy and Redistribution
DEMOCRACY AND REDISTRIBUTION BOIX PDF