Bring it down

Kevin Lewis

August 14, 2019

Testing the “China Model” of Meritocratic Promotions: Do Democracies Reward Less Competent Ministers Than Autocracies?
Don Lee & Paul Schuler
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Proponents of the “China Model” suggest that autocracies, particularly in East Asia, reward competence more than democracies. However, a competing literature argues that autocracies are less likely to reward competence because autocrats fear that competent officials could challenge for power. We argue that autocracies do not fear technical competence; they fear political competence. As such, autocracies may promote ministers with technical competence but punish the politically competent. Democracies, by contrast, place a premium on political competence when deciding whom to promote. We provide the first test of this theory on how ministerial behavior is rewarded using a unique data set of political performance and promotions in nine East Asian countries. Our findings show that autocracies promote officials with technical competence as long as the ministers limit their political behavior. In democracies, parliamentary and presidential democracies promote those displaying political competence.

How often do dictators have positive economic effects? Global evidence, 1858–2010
Stephanie Rizio & Ahmed Skali
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

Supposedly well-intentioned dictators are often cited as drivers of economic growth. We examine this claim in a panel of 133 countries from 1858 to 2010. Using annual data on economic growth, political regimes, and political leaders, we document a robust asymmetric pattern: growth-positive autocrats (autocrats whose countries experience larger-than-average growth) are found only as frequently as would be predicted by chance. In contrast, growth-negative autocrats are found significantly more frequently. Implementing regression discontinuity designs (RDD), we also examine local trends in the neighbourhood of the entry into power of growth-positive autocrats. We find that growth under supposedly growth-positive autocrats does not significantly differ from previous realizations of growth, suggesting that even the infrequent growth-positive autocrats largely “ride the wave” of previous success. On the other hand, our estimates reject the null hypothesis that growth-negative rulers have no effects. Taken together, our results cast serious doubt on the benevolent autocrat hypothesis.

The Structural Economic Roots of Liberal Democracy
Sam van Noort
University of Cambridge Working Paper, July 2019

Existing studies on the modernization theory have found little evidence of a consistent effect of income on democracy. I argue that this is because only growth derived from manufacturing induces democratization, while growth based on other economic activities is unlikely to affect democratization (e.g. family farming) or may even harm it (e.g. natural resource extraction). To test this theory I instrument pre-1970 industrialization levels with countries' geological potential to have domestic access to coal. While early industrial production strongly relied on coal, coal itself is highly unequally distributed across countries and was until 1970 limitedly tradable due to high transportation costs. In addition I estimate time series fixed effects models using data from 100 countries over the 1845 to 2015 period. In line with my theory I find strong effects of industrialization, whereas GDP per capita has a negative effect on democracy after controlling for industrialization.

Judicial Independence and Human Rights in Autocracies
Mehdi Shadmehr, Raphael Boleslavsky & Tom Ginsburg
University of Chicago Working Paper, July 2019

Why do some autocracies empower their judiciaries to uphold human rights even though independent judiciaries can prevent the repression of opposition? We develop a theoretical framework to explain why dictatorships benefit from judiciaries that restrict the government's use of coercion, thereby addressing the contradiction between the function of independent judiciaries and their institutional origins. By granting a degree of judicial independence, the regime shapes how the public views the state's use of coercion. When the judiciary is more effective in preventing state repression, the public will have more confidence in the legitimacy of coercive acts that are not blocked by the judiciary. This shifts public opinion against the opposition in favor of the regime, reducing the public's incentive to support the opposition. Unlike propaganda and censorship that directly control the information that citizens receive, partially independent judiciaries enable autocracies to control how the public processes the informational content of coercion.

Foreign Aid, Instability, and Governance in Africa
Simplice Asongu & Joseph Nnanna
Politics & Policy, August 2019, Pages 807-848

This article contributes to the attendant literature by bundling governance dynamics and focusing on foreign aid instability instead of foreign aid. We assess the role of foreign aid instability on governance dynamics in 53 African countries for the period 1996‐2010. An autoregressive endogeneity‐robust generalized method of moments is employed. Instabilities are measured in terms of variance of the errors and standard deviations. Three main aid indicators are used, namely: total aid, aid from multilateral donors, and bilateral aid. Principal component analysis is used to bundle governance indicators, namely: political governance (voice and accountability and political stability/no violence), economic governance (regulation quality and government effectiveness), institutional governance (rule of law and corruption control), and general governance (political, economic, and institutional governance). Our findings show that foreign aid instability increases governance standards, especially political and general governance. Policy implications are discussed.

Self-censorship of regime support in authoritarian states: Evidence from list experiments in China
Darrel Robinson & Marcus Tannenberg
Research & Politics, July 2019

The study of popular support for authoritarian regimes has long relied on the assumption that respondents provide truthful answers to surveys. However, when measuring regime support in closed political systems there is a distinct risk that individuals are less than forthright due to fear that their opinions may be made known to the public or the authorities. In order to test this assumption, we conducted a novel web-based survey in China in which we included four list experiments of commonly used items in the comparative literature on regime support. We find systematic bias for all four measures; substantially more individuals state that they support the regime with direct questioning than when presented with our indirect list experiments. The level of self-censorship, which ranges from 24.5 to 26.5 percentage points, is considerably higher than previously thought. Self-censorship is further most prevalent among the wealthy, urban, female and younger respondents.

An assessment of democratic vulnerability: Regime type, economic development, and coups d’état
Rebecca Schiel
Democratization, forthcoming

Prior research has not established a clear relationship between democracy and insulation from coups d’état, with very few studies illustrating robust findings on the subject. I contend that the lack of attention paid to the conditional influences of democracy on coups has resulted in these mixed findings. I posit that insulation from coups occurs at higher levels of economic development in both autocracies and democracies. However, the vulnerability present at low levels of economic development is significantly greater in democracies. Poor democracies lack the coercive capacity associated with authoritarian states, suffer from relatively weaker patronage networks, and have smaller pots for public goods provision, all making them less capable of maintaining elite loyalty. An assessment of 165 states for the years 1950–2011 offers strong support for the argument. Democracies are indeed an important part of the coup story, but only when simultaneously addressing their level of economic development.

Human Rights Abused? Terrorist Labeling and Individual Reactions to Call to Action
Ana Bracic & Amanda Murdie
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

What leads individuals to be motivated to act for human rights causes? Human rights organizations (HROs) often use personal and emotional stories of the abused in order to gain the attention of individuals reading newspapers or emails directly from the organization. McEntire, Leiby, and Krain show that personal frames are most successful at increasing knowledge about a specific human rights situation and motivating individuals to act. However, HROs are not operating in a political vacuum; repressive governments often try to spin information about abuses and the abused to their advantage. This study uses an experimental approach to address how the discursive interactions between states and HROs influence individual-level support of HRO efforts. When governments respond to HRO claims by labeling the abused as a terrorist, individuals are much less likely to be spurred into certain types of action, like signing a petition, and feel differently about the specific case. Interestingly, we do not find that trust in the information provided by an HRO is harmed by being associated with someone labeled a terrorist.

Non-violent resistance and the quality of democracy
Felix Bethke & Jonathan Pinckney
Conflict Management and Peace Science, forthcoming

Previous research has shown that successful non-violent resistance (NVR) campaigns promote democracy compared with violent revolutions and top-down liberalization. However, research to date has not examined the character and quality of the democratic regimes following NVR campaigns, or evaluated the mechanisms that produce this effect. In this paper, we address this gap by analyzing the effect of NVR on the quality of democracy, using the Polyarchy index from the Varieties of Democracies project and its sub-components: (1) elected executive; (2) free and fair elections; (3) freedom of expression; (4) associational autonomy; and (5) inclusive citizenship. Using kernel matching and differences-in-differences estimation we find that initiating a democratic transition through NVR improves democratic quality after transition significantly and substantially relative to cases without this characteristic. Our analysis of the Polyarchy index’s sub-components reveals that this positive effect comes about primarily owing to improvements in freedom of expression and associational autonomy. This finding speaks to the strength of NVR in promoting expressive dimensions of democracy.

Rethinking Democratic Diffusion: Bringing Regime Type Back In
Edward Goldring & Sheena Chestnut Greitens
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Studies of democratic diffusion often emphasize geographic proximity: democratization in a country or region makes democratization nearby more likely. We argue that regime type has been underappreciated; authoritarian breakdown and democratization often diffuse along networks of similar regimes. A regime’s type affects its vulnerability to popular challenge, and regime similarity increases the likelihood that protest strategies developed against one regime are effective against similar regimes. We employ a qualitative case study from China to generate our theory, then test it quantitatively and with out-of-sample cases. We find that regime similarity strongly predicts autocratic breakdown and democratic diffusion, making both outcomes more likely. Including regime similarity significantly reduces the effect of geographic proximity, although geographic proximity may increase the effect of regime similarity. Reinterpreting democratic diffusion as a regime-type phenomenon calls for revision to conventional wisdom on the role of international factors in authoritarian breakdown and democratization.

Local Public Goods Expenditure and Ethnic Conflict: Evidence from China
Chuyu Liu
Security Studies, July 2019, Pages 739-772

Few civil-conflict studies explore the role played by subnational-level governments, especially the impact of their providing public goods. In this paper, I argue that local governments can mitigate the risk of ethnic conflicts by increasing their provision of public goods. I situate this argument in the context of ongoing ethnic conflicts in Xinjiang, China. With a new data set of 105 ethnic conflicts in Xinjiang between 1997 and 2005, this study finds that counties with higher government spending on education were significantly less likely to experience conflicts. The results are robust to a wide range of robustness checks.

Did rainfall shocks cause civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa? The implications of data revisions
Weidong Liang & Nicholas Sim
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

In their seminal paper, Miguel et al. (2004) found that negative rainfall shocks (measured as negative year-on-year rainfall growth) had caused civil conflict in sub-Saharan Africa over the 1981–1999 period. Since then, the rainfall and conflict data they used had undergone multiple revisions. We show that rainfall shocks are no longer statistically significant for civil conflict when the revised data are used. This is true whether we employ a different functional form for rainfall, extend the sample to include more recent observations, use longer lags for rainfall shocks, employ dynamic panel regression, or panel regressions that take into account of cross-sectional dependence. Using rainfall shocks as instruments for growth, we also find that growth is insignificant for civil conflict if the revised data are used. Upon further investigation, we find that updates in the rainfall and conflict data for one or a few countries may alone cause rainfall shocks to lose statistical significance.

How Do Inclusionary and Exclusionary Autocracies Affect Ordinary People?
Anja Neundorf, Johannes Gerschewski & Roman-Gabriel Olar
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

We propose a distinction between inclusionary and exclusionary autocratic ruling strategies and develop novel theoretical propositions on the legacy that these strategies leave on citizens’ political attitudes once the autocratic regime broke down. Using data of 1.3 million survey respondents from 71 countries and hierarchical age–period–cohort models, we estimate between and within cohort differences in citizens’ democratic support. We find that inclusionary regimes — with wider redistribution of socioeconomic and political benefits — leave a stronger antidemocratic legacy than exclusionary regimes on the political attitudes of their citizens. Similarly, citizens who were part of the winning group in an autocracy are more critical with democracy compared with citizens who were part of discriminated groups. This article contributes to our understanding about how autocracies affect the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens.

Emergence of integrated institutions in a large population of self-governing communities
Seth Frey & Robert Sumner
PLoS ONE, July 2019

Most aspects of our lives are governed by large, highly developed institutions that integrate several governance tasks under one authority structure. But theorists differ as to the mechanisms that drive the development of such concentrated governance systems from rudimentary beginnings. Is the emergence of integrated governance schemes a symptom of consolidation of authority by small status groups? Or does integration occur because a complex institution has more potential responses to a complex environment? Here we examine the emergence of complex governance regimes in 5,000 sovereign, resource-constrained, self-governing online communities, ranging in scale from one to thousands of users. Each community begins with no community members and no governance infrastructure. As communities grow, they are subject to selection pressures that keep better managed servers better populated. We identify predictors of community success and test the hypothesis that governance complexity can enhance community fitness. We find that what predicts success depends on size: changes in complexity predict increased success with larger population servers. Specifically, governance rules in a large successful community are more numerous and broader in scope. They also tend to rely more on rules that concentrate power in administrators, and on rules that manage bad behavior and limited server resources. Overall, this work is consistent with theories that formal integrated governance systems emerge to organize collective responses to interdependent resource management problems, especially as factors such as population size exacerbate those problems.

The Ideological Shadow of Authoritarianism
Elias Dinas & Ksenia Northmore-Ball
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

How do the labels left and right take on meaning in new democracies? Existing explanations point to the universality of the left–right scheme or, reversely, emphasize regionally dominant social cleavages. We propose an alternative legacy-focused theory based on two observations: Dictatorships are not ideologically neutral and are negatively evaluated by most citizens and elites after democratization. These premises lead us to expect that when the authoritarian regime is associated with the left (right), the citizens of a new democracy will display an antileft (antiright) bias in their left–right self-identification. We test this hypothesis across Latin American and European new democracies. We find significant bias, which in the case of new democracies following left-wing regimes is concealed due to intercohort heterogeneity. Although older cohorts denote a positive bias, cohorts born after Stalin’s era denote negative bias against the left. Consistent with our expectations, repression exacerbates this bias whereas indoctrination mitigates it. Finally, we look at how these biases apply to party preferences. The findings have important implications for understanding authoritarian legacies and party system development in new democracies.

Why Low Levels of Democracy Promote Corruption and High Levels Diminish It
Kelly McMann et al.
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Theory predicts democracy should reduce corruption. Yet, scholars have found that while corruption is low at high levels of democracy, it is high at modest levels, as well as low when democracy is absent. A weakness of studies that aim to explain this inverted curvilinear relationship is that they do not disaggregate the complex concepts of democracy and corruption. By contrast, this paper disaggregates both. We demonstrate that the curvilinear relationship results from the collective impact of different components of democracy on different types of corruption. Using Varieties of Democracy data, we examine 173 countries from 1900 to 2015, and we find freedom of expression and freedom of association each exhibit an inverted curvilinear relationship with corruption — both overall corruption and four different types. The introduction of elections and the quality of elections each act in a linear fashion — positively and negatively with corruption, respectively — but jointly form a curvilinear relationship with both overall corruption and many of its types. Judicial and legislative constraints exhibit a negative linear relationship with executive corruption. We offer a framework that suggests how these components affect costs and benefits of engaging in different types of corruption and, therefore, the level of corruption overall.

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