Democracy before, in, and after Schumpeter

PHILIP PETTIT

CRITICAL REVIEW

Abstract: The classical model of democracy that Schumpeter criticizes is manufactured out of a variety of earlier ideas, not those of any one thinker or even one school of thought. His critique of the central ideals by which he defines the model—those of the common will and the common good—remains persuasive. People’s preferences are too messy and too manipulable to allow us to think that mass democracy can promote those ideals, as he defines them. Should we endorse his purely electoral model of democracy, then, and accept that people do not exercise any control over government? Not necessarily. We can expand democracy to include the constitutional and contestatory constraints that people impose on their rulers. We may hope that people can rely on such democratic controls to ensure that government operates by community standards.

How do federal regulations affect consumer prices? An analysis of the regressive effects of regulation

DUSTIN CHAMBERS, COURTNEY A. COLLINS, ALAN KRAUSE

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: This study is the first to measure the impact of federal regulations on consumer prices. By combining consumer expenditure and pricing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industry supply-chain data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and industry-specific regulation information from the Mercatus Center’s RegData database, we determine that regulations promote higher consumer prices, and that these price increases have a disproportionately negative effect on low-income households. Specifically, we find that the poorest households spend larger proportions of their incomes on heavily regulated goods and services prone to sharp price increases. While the literature explores other specific costs of regulation, noting that higher consumer prices are a probable consequence of heavy regulation, this study is the first to provide a thorough empirical analysis of that relationship across industries. Irrespective of the reasons for imposing new regulations, these results demonstrate that in the aggregate, the negative consequences are significant, especially for the most vulnerable households.

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.