Geography, Transparency, and Institutions

JORAM MAYSHAR, OMER MOAV, and ZVIKA NEEMAN

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 3

Abstract: We propose a theory in which geographic attributes explain cross-regional institutional differences in (1) the scale of the state, (2) the distribution of power within state hierarchy, and (3) property rights to land. In this theory, geography and technology affect the transparency of farming, and transparency, in turn, affects the elite’s ability to appropriate revenue from the farming sector, thus affecting institutions. We apply the theory to explain differences between the institutions of ancient Egypt, southern Mesopotamia, and northern Mesopotamia, and also discuss its relevance to modern phenomena.

The rise and decline of nations: the dynamic properties of institutional reform

RUSSELL S. SOBEL

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 3

Abstract: While it is now well established in the literature that countries with better policies and institutions, as measured by the Economic Freedom of the World index, have better outcomes in terms of prosperity, growth, and measures of human well-being. However, we know little about the process of institutional reform – that is why and how country policies undergo major changes either upward or downward in their levels of economic freedom. This research attempts to provide a systematic overview of this process, by uncovering what the data really show about this transition process. Institutional declines occur more abruptly than institutional improvements, and free trade appears to be a key ‘first mover’ in cases of large institutional change.

Individualistic values, institutional trust, and interventionist attitudes

HANS PITLIK and MARTIN RODE

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 3

Abstract: A popular explanation for economic development is that ‘individualistic values’ provide a mind-set that is favorable to the creation of growth-promoting institutions. The present paper investigates the relationship between individualistic values and personal attitudes toward government intervention. We consider two key components of an individualistic culture to be particularly relevant for attitude formation: self-direction (‘social’ individualism) and self-determination (‘economic’ individualism). Results indicate that both are negatively associated with interventionist attitudes. Effects of self-direction are much weaker though, than self-determination. Moreover, the effects of self-direction are mitigated through higher trust in the state and lower confidence in companies, while that is not the case for self-determination values. We conclude that especially economic individualism supports attitudes conducive to the formation of formal market-friendly institutions.

Economic Development, Mobility, and Political Discontent: An Experimental Test of Tocqueville’s Thesis in Pakistan

ANDREW HEALYKATRINA KOSEC and CECILIA HYUNJUNG MO

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 3

Abstract: We consider the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville (1856) that economic development and increased mobility may generate political discontent not present in more stagnant economies. For many citizens, as they become aware of the potential for improved living standards, their aspirations may increase faster than actual living standards. Expanded opportunity may then paradoxically result in dissatisfaction with government rather than greater confidence. We develop a formal model to capture Tocqueville’s (1856) verbal theory and test its predictions using a 2012–2013 face-to-face survey experiment conducted in Pakistan. The experiment utilizes established treatments to subtly manipulate either a participant’s perceptions of her own economic well-being, her perceptions of society-wide mobility, or both. As predicted by the theory, political discontent rises when declining personal well-being coincides with high mobility to create unrealized aspirations. The results thus identify the conditions under which expanded economic opportunity can lead to political unrest.

Democracy and Unfreedom: Revisiting Tocqueville and Beaumont in America

SARA M. BENSON

SAGE JOURNALS, Volume 45, Issue 4

Abstract: This essay reexamines the famous 1831 prison tours of Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont. It reads the three texts that emerged from their collective research practice as a trilogy, one conventionally read in different disciplinary homes (Democracy in America in political science, On the Penitentiary in criminology, and Marie, Or Slavery: A Novel of Jacksonian America in literature). I argue that in marginalizing the trilogy’s important critique of slavery and punishment, scholars have overemphasized the centrality of free institutions and ignored the unfree institutions that also anchor American political life. The article urges scholars in political theory and political science to attend to this formative moment in mass incarceration and carceral democracy.

Economic freedom and human capital investment

HORST FELDMANN

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 2

Abstract: Using data from 1972 to 2011 on 109 countries, this paper empirically studies the impact of economic freedom on human capital investment. Enrollment in secondary education is used as a proxy for such investments. Controlling for a large number of other determinants of education, it finds that, over the sample period, economic freedom had a substantial positive effect. This is probably because more economic freedom increases the return on investing in human capital, enables people to keep a larger share of the return, and, by facilitating the operation of credit markets, makes it easier for them to undertake such investments in the first place.

The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence From the Kuba Kingdom

SARA LOWES, NATHAN NUNN, JAMES A. ROBINSON, JONATHAN L. WEIGEL

ECONOMETRICA, Volume 85, Issue 4

Abstract: We use variation in historical state centralization to examine the long-term impact of institutions on cultural norms. The Kuba Kingdom, established in Central Africa in the early 17th century by King Shyaam, had more developed state institutions than the other independent villages and chieftaincies in the region. It had an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force, a military, taxation, and significant public goods provision. Comparing individuals from the Kuba Kingdom to those from just outside the Kingdom, we find that centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule following and a greater propensity to cheat for material gain. This finding is consistent with recent models where endogenous investments to inculcate values in children decline when there is an increase in the effectiveness of formal institutions that enforce socially desirable behavior. Consistent with such a mechanism, we find that Kuba parents believe it is less important to teach children values related to rule-following behaviors.