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The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy

Jeanet Bentzen (), Jacob Gerner Hariri and James Robinson ()

No 21193, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: We document that rules for leadership succession in ethnic societies that antedate the modern state predict contemporary political regimes; leadership selection by election in indigenous societies is associated with contemporary representative democracy. The basic association, however, is conditioned on the relative strength of the indigenous groups within a country; stronger groups seem to have been able to shape national regime trajectories, weaker groups do not. This finding extends and qualifies a substantive qualitative literature, which has found in local democratic institutions of medieval Europe a positive impulse towards the development of representative democracy. It shows that contemporary regimes are shaped not only by colonial history and European influence; indigenous history also matters. For practitioners, our findings suggest that external reformers' capacity for regime-building should not be exaggerated.

JEL-codes: D72 N4 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-evo, nep-gro, nep-his and nep-pol
Note: POL
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Working Paper: The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy (2014) Downloads
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