Why do some autocrats survive for decades, and others fall soon after taking power? The authors argue that when authoritarian rulers need to solicit the cooperation of outsiders or deter the threat of rebellion, they rely on political institutions. Partisan legislatures incorporate potential opposition forces, giving them a stake in the ruler's survival. By broadening the basis of support for autocrats, these institutions lengthen their tenures. An analysis of all authoritarian rulers in power during the 1946-1996 period provides evidence of the effect of nominally democratic institutions on their political survival.
What makes political regimes rise, endure, and fall? The main question is whether the observed close relation between levels of economic development and the incidence of democratic regimes is due to democracies being more likely to emerge or only more likely to survive in the more developed countries. We answer this question using data concerning 135 countries that existed at any time between 1950 and 1990. We find that the level of economic development does not affect the probability of transitions to democracy but that affluence does make democratic regimes more stable. The relation between affluence and democratic stability is monotonic, and the breakdown of democracies at middle levels of development is a phenomenon peculiar to the Southern Cone of Latin America. These patterns also appear to have been true of the earlier period, but dictatorships are more likely to survive in wealthy countries that became independent only after 1950. We conclude that modernization need not generate democracy but democracies survive in countries that are modern.
Dictatorships are not all the same: some are purely autocratic but many exhibit a full panoply of seemingly democratic institutions. To explain these differences, we develop a model in which dictators may need cooperation to generate rents and may face a threat of rebellion. Dictators have two instruments: they can make policy concessions or share rents. We conclude that when they need more cooperation dictators make more extensive policy concessions and share fewer rents. In turn, when the threat of rebellion is greater, they make larger concessions but also distribute more spoils. Assuming that policy concessions require an institutional setting of legislatures and parties, we test this prediction statistically for all dictatorships that existed between 1946 and 1996. Copyright 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd..
Does democracy in the political realm foster or hinder economic growth? Our discussion of this question begins with a review of arguments in favor of and against democracy. Then we summarize statistical studies in which political regime is included among determinants of growth and identify some methodological problems entailed in such studies. The conclusion is that social scientists know surprisingly little: our guess is that political institutions do matter for growth, but thinking in terms of regimes does not seem to capture the relevant differences.
Are government coalitions less frequent under presidentialism than under parliamentarism? Do legislative deadlocks occur when presidents do not form majoritarian governments? Are presidential democracies more brittle when they are ruled by minorities? We answer these questions observing almost all democracies that existed between 1946 and 1999. It turns out that government coalitions occur in more than one half of the situations in which the president's party does not have a majority, that minority governments are not less successful legislatively than majority coalitions in both systems, and that the coalition status of the government has no impact on the survival of democracy in either system. Hence, whatever is wrong with presidentialism, is not due to the difficulty of forming coalitions.
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