Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Democracy is Destiny, or Vice Versa?

Destined for Democracy? Labour Markets and Political Change in Colonial British America

Elena Nikolova
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract: In this article a new explanation for the emergence of democratic institutions is proposed: elites may extend the right to vote to the masses in order to attract migrant workers. It is argued that representative assemblies serve as a commitment device for any promises made to labourers by those in power, and the argument is tested on a new political and economic dataset from the thirteen British American colonies. The results suggest that colonies that relied on white migrant labour, rather than slaves, had better representative institutions. These findings are not driven by alternative factors identified in the literature, such as inequality or initial conditions, and survive a battery of validity checks.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember something like this for ancient Greece. Democracy developed in 2 big steps, the first was a move away from an oligarchy as many men of moderate wealth were needed to man the hoplite armies (moderate wealth was needed to buy and maintain weapons and armor). The second was towards a more broad based democracy as more men were needed to man the oars of the triremes. That work didn't require any wealth, and the Greeks didn't have enough captives/slaves, so if you were willing and able to row an oar then you could participate in the government.