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Carolyn Evans

Economics and Politics, 2009, vol. 21, issue 2, 278-307

Abstract: Do politics affect trade policy? Despite an extensive literature examining the relationship between trade policy and some political factors, relatively few studies have explored the role of a country's electoral system, arguably one of the most fundamental characteristics of a nation's political landscape. This paper examines the empirical relationship between tariffs and electoral systems across countries and over time. The broad theoretical framework is provided by Grossman and Helpman, which predicts a bias towards a non‐zero average tariff, i.e. a “protectionist bias”, in countries with majoritarian systems, since politicians in a majoritarian system aim to maximize the welfare of their home districts, as opposed to the welfare of the nation as a whole. I compare average tariffs of countries with majoritarian systems to those with proportional systems, using methods that address the omitted variables/sample selection problem inherent to this analysis. I find that countries with majoritarian systems do indeed appear to have higher average tariffs than do countries with proportional systems. This result holds after controlling for other country‐specific characteristics, such as a country's legal origins, colonial history, and geographic location.

Date: 2009
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