Succession and Secession

Kevin Lewis

August 16, 2021

Mass persuasion and the ideological origins of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Susan Ou & Heyu Xiong
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming


We study the role of media in the transmission of ideology during the Cultural Revolution. We find that counties with a stronger radio signal experienced higher revolutionary intensity as shown by the number of killings. We also find that the effects of radio were concentrated in areas where Mandarin, the language of state-sponsored broadcasts, was better understood. This suggests that the extent of state persuasion was constrained by the linguistic heterogeneity of the population. Through investigation of later-in-life outcomes such as participation in the Communist Party and attitudes on wealth and inequality, we provide evidence of persistence in beliefs among the group most differentially exposed to media -- native Mandarin speakers of an impressionable age at the start of Cultural Revolution.

The long-run effects of religious persecution: Evidence from the Spanish Inquisition
Mauricio Drelichman, Jordi Vidal-Robert & Hans-Joachim Voth
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 August 2021


Religious persecution is common in many countries around the globe. There is little evidence on its long-term effects. We collect data from all across Spain, using information from more than 67,000 trials held by the Spanish Inquisition between 1480 and 1820. This comprehensive database allows us to demonstrate that municipalities of Spain with a history of a stronger inquisitorial presence show lower economic performance, educational attainment, and trust today. The effects persist after controlling for historical indicators of religiosity and wealth, ruling out potential selection bias.

How Personalist Politics Is Changing Democracies
Erica Frantz et al.
Journal of Democracy, July 2021, Pages 94-108


Observers have expressed concerns that democratic politics is growing more personalistic. The absence of cross-national time-series data capturing personalism in democracies, however, has made it difficult to assess the validity of these observations. This study fills that gap. It covers a time-varying index of personalism in the world's democracies from 1991 to 2020. The index combines original data measuring indicators of personalism with existing data sources. We find that observers' intuitions are correct: Levels of personalism have increased in democracies in recent years. Importantly, we show that greater personalism is associated with a variety of negative outcomes, such as higher levels of populism, a higher probability of democratic erosion, and greater political polarization. In addition, we explore the potential causes of the personalist wave and find evidence that new technologies and digital tools are facilitating it. Our new index of personalism enables researchers to better explore these and other relationships. Given that a key signal of impending personalization is the leader's creation of their own political party, we encourage observers to take note of the election of such leaders as a red flag for democracy.

Family Matters: Education and the (Conditional) Effect of State Indoctrination in China
Jay Kao
Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2021, Pages 54-78


When and how does state indoctrination work? Building upon research on motivated reasoning and family socialization, I argue that only those individuals whose parents have connections to political patronage are subject to state indoctrination because their pro-regime biases transmitted from parents induce higher receptivity prior to government messages. Focusing on political education in China, I conduct a quasi-experimental analysis exploiting the sharp variation in textbook content generated by China's most recent curriculum reform. Results based on a national survey show that the new politics textbooks successfully affected only those individuals whose parents had worked for the government. The finding survives extensive robustness checks and falsification tests. I also consider several alternative explanations of the effects: preference falsification, selective attention, parental indoctrination, and educational quality. This paper not only highlights the role of intergenerational transmission in moderating the effectiveness of state indoctrination but also casts doubt on the actual degree to which regimes can change minds by changing educational content.

How corruption investigations undermine regime support: Evidence from China
Yuhua Wang & Bruce Dickson
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming


Authoritarian leaders around the world often fight against corruption in an effort to win public support. Conventional wisdom holds that this strategy works because leaders can signal their benevolent intentions by removing corrupt officials. We argue that fighting against corruption can undermine regime support. By revealing scandals of corrupt officials, corruption investigations can alter citizens' beliefs about public officials and lead to disenchantment about political institutions. We test this argument by examining how China's current anti-corruption campaign has changed citizens' public support for the government and the Communist Party. We analyze the results of two original surveys conducted before and during the campaign, and employ a difference-in-differences strategy to show that corruption investigations, at the margin, suppress respondents' support for the central government and party. We also examine our respondents' prior and posterior beliefs, and the results support our updating mechanism.

The golden age of mercenaries
Peter Leeson & Ennio Piano
European Review of Economic History, August 2021, Pages 429-446


Between the mid-thirteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries, Italian city-states abandoned citizen militaries for militaries composed of mercenaries: foreign soldiers for hire. So dramatic was the switch that this epoch has been called "the golden age of mercenaries," and so treacherous did the mercenaries prove that Niccolò Machiavelli would later denounce them as "useless and dangerous." Italian rulers knew of mercenaries' infamous reputation when they hired them. To explain the puzzling fact that rulers hired mercenaries anyway, we develop a theory of military composition in which political circumstance constrains ruler choice. Comparative analysis of Venice and Florence provides evidence for our explanation.

The Political-Economic Causes of the Soviet Great Famine, 1932-33
Andrei Markevich, Natalya Naumenko & Nancy Qian
NBER Working Paper, July 2021


This study constructs a large new dataset to investigate whether state policy led to ethnic Ukrainians experiencing higher mortality during the 1932-33 Soviet Great Famine. All else equal, famine (excess) mortality rates were positively associated with ethnic Ukrainian population share across provinces, as well as across districts within provinces. Ukrainian ethnicity, rather than the administrative boundaries of the Ukrainian republic, mattered for famine mortality. These and many additional results provide strong evidence that higher Ukrainian famine mortality was an outcome of policy, and suggestive evidence on the political-economic drivers of repression. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that bias against Ukrainians explains up to 77% of famine deaths in the three republics of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and up to 92% in Ukraine.

The Economics of State Fragmentation: Assessing the Economic Impact of Secession
Jo Reynaerts & Jakob Vanschoonbeek
Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming


This paper presents estimates of the economic effects of secession for a large panel of countries that gained independence between 1940 and 2016. It relies on a semi-parametric identification strategy that controls for the confounding effects of past GDP dynamics, anticipation effects, unobserved heterogeneity, model uncertainty and effect heterogeneity. Our findings indicate that secession lowered per capita GDP, on average by around 24% in the 10th post-independence year. Nevertheless, the associated cross-sectional standard deviation of 25% emphasizes that the economic impact of secession also varied widely across countries. A novel procedure to produce confidence intervals around synthetic control estimates of treatment effects demonstrates the statistical significance of the findings. We document the implications for several historical independence waves and connect them to the existing literature. We find tentative evidence that, in decreasing order of relative importance, the adverse effects of independence are disproportionally present in non-oil producing landlocked countries and are mitigated when newly independent states use their new-found political autonomy to democratize or to liberalize their trade regime.

Love on the rocks: The causal effects of separatist governments in Quebec
Vincent Geloso & Kevin Grier
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


Is separatism economically costly or is the violence associated with separatism to blame? Most separatist movements overlap with violent ethnic tensions and are associated with economically destructive outcomes. In this paper, we consider a (largely) peaceful separatist movement. Specifically, we use the synthetic control method to study the economic consequences of the surprising victory of the Parti Québécois in Quebec in 1976 and the subsequent referendum on Quebec's independence in 1980. We find that, relative to our control, the election of separatists had a small positive effect on economic activity until 1980 after which a small negative effect appears. We find similar results following the 1994 election that returned the Parti Québécois to power. We further find that the size of the provincial government (relative to GDP) constantly and significantly exceeded the counterfactual. We argue that the economic costs of separatist movements may arise from the frequently associated violence and not be intrinsic to any sort of attempted political disintegration.

How government-controlled media shifts policy attitudes through framing
Jennifer Pan, Zijie Shao & Yiqing Xu
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming


Research shows that government-controlled media is an effective tool for authoritarian regimes to shape public opinion. Does government-controlled media remain effective when it is required to support changes in positions that autocrats take on issues? Existing theories do not provide a clear answer to this question, but we often observe authoritarian governments using government media to frame policies in new ways when significant changes in policy positions are required. By conducting an experiment that exposes respondents to government-controlled media - in the form of TV news segments - on issues where the regime substantially changed its policy positions, we find that by framing the same issue differently, government-controlled media moves respondents to adopt policy positions closer to the ones espoused by the regime regardless of individual predisposition. This result holds for domestic and foreign policy issues, for direct and composite measures of attitudes, and persists up to 48 hours after exposure.

The Sovereign's Dilemma: State Capacity and Ruler Survival in Imperial China
Yuhua Wang
Harvard Working Paper, July 2021


China's state development was shaped by elite network structures that characterized state-society relations, rather than representative institutions or bellicist competition. For the 2,000 years of its existence, its rulers faced the sovereign's dilemma: a coherent elite that could take collective action to strengthen the state could also overthrow the ruler. When elites were in geographically broad and densely interconnected networks, they preferred a strong state capable of protecting their far-flung interests, and their cohesiveness constituted a threat to the ruler's survival. Yet when elites relied on local bases of power and were not tightly connected, they instead sought to hollow out the central state from within; their internal divisions enabled the ruler to play competing factions against each other to secure his personal survival. This capacity-survival tradeoff explains China's historical state development and highlights the importance of elite social relations in understanding alternative paths of state development outside Europe.

The consolidation of royal control: Evidence from northern Castile, 1352-1787
Valentín Figueroa
European Review of Economic History, August 2021, Pages 447-466


Rulers of modern states consolidated control over territories that were previously complicated mosaics of private political jurisdictions. Systematic information about this process is sparse. This article analyzes village-level transition paths between jurisdictions - royal, seigneurial, and ecclesiastical - in northern Castile in the period 1352-1787. It quantifies how much power different types of lords preserved or lost to the Crown in the long run and also offers conjectural estimates showing that exposure to opportunities for trade led to more resilient and larger royal domains - at the expense of secular lords, but not of the Catholic Church.

International incentives for women's rights in dictatorships
Daniela Donno, Sara Fox & Joshua Kaasik
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming


Democracy and women's rights are integrally "bundled" by the international community. This means that dictatorships can signal adherence to international norms by demonstrating progress on gender equality, often in a manner that is consistent with the perpetuation of authoritarian rule. Using a new dataset of de jure advances in women's rights, we show that dictatorships have vigorously enacted gender-related legislation, at a rate that surpasses democracies in the developing world. This pattern is shaped by international (Western) pressure: Among autocracies, foreign aid dependence and international nongovernmental organization shaming are associated with legal advances in women's rights, but not with reforms in other, more politically costly areas related to elections, political competition, and repression. Our account therefore highlights selective compliance as a form of adaptation to international pressure and underscores the role of international incentives as a complement to domestic "bottom-up" pressure for women's rights in dictatorships.


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