Orkun Saka, Yuemei Ji, Paul De Grauwe, 13 November 2020

Financial crises invariably lead governments to intervene in one way or another, whether to ease the damage to middle-class voters, to respond to the anti-finance sentiment, or to introduce new policies favouring the financial industry. This column traces policy interventions back to policymakers’ incentives. Financial crises lead governments to re-regulate financial markets only in democratic settings. Politicians who are facing a term limit are substantially more likely to re-regulate financial markets after crises in ways compatible with their private incentives. These privately motivated interventions operate via controversial policy domains and favour incumbent banks in countries with more revolving doors between political and financial institutions.

Daniel Treisman, 26 November 2017

Most research on the transition to democracy tries to explain why autocrats choose to democratise. Based on two centuries of data on democratisation, this column argues, however, that autocratic rulers overwhelmingly create democracies by mistake. Taking these mistakes into account during analysis may improve the predictive or explanatory power of existing models.

Ameet Morjaria, 05 February 2014

Ethnic favouritism is a longstanding problem in Africa. This column presents new evidence of this phenomenon and how democracy affects it. Data on road building in Kenya confirms strong ethnic favouritism that disappears during periods of democracy.

Mark Harrison, 15 January 2014

Democracy often seems bureaucratic with high ‘transaction costs’, while autocracies seem to get things done at lower cost. This column discusses historical research that refutes this. It finds empirical support from Soviet archives for a political security/usability tradeoff. Regimes that are secure from public scrutiny tend to be more costly to operate.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 17 November 2013

Based on statistical measures of different degrees of democracy vs. autocracy, this article briefly reviews the progress of democracy around the world during the past 212 years, and places democratic developments in Africa since 1960 in that context. Democracy is positively associated with education, which in turn is associated with lower fertility and greater longevity. Democracy is also associated with reduced corruption. Together, these effects suggest democracy should be good for growth – a hypothesis that is borne out by the data.

Francesco Caselli, Andrea Tesei, 22 December 2011

Oil and other natural resources can be both a blessing and a curse. Incomes may rise, but the politics can soon turn nasty. This column looks at a large panel of countries and finds that this isn’t always the case. Discovering natural resources has no effect on the political system – if the country is already a democracy.

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