Observation shows that while democracy is fragile in poor countries, it is impregnable in developed ones. To explain this pattern, I develop a model in which political parties propose redistributions of incomes, observe the result of an election, and decide whether to comply with the outcome or to launch a struggle for dictatorship. Democracy prevails in developed societies because too much is at stake in turning against it. More income can be redistributed in developed than in poor countries without threatening democracy. Limits on redistribution arise endogenously, so that constitutions are not necessary for democracy to endure. A democratic culture characterizes the equilibrium.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Acemoglou, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2000). Why did the West extend the franchise? Democracy, inequality, and growth in historical perspective. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, 1167–1200.
Acemoglou, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2001). A theory of political transitions. American Economic Review, 91, 938–963.
Alesina, A., (1988). Credibility and convergence in a two-party system with rational voters. American Economic Review, 78, 796–805.
Alvarez, M., Cheibub, J. A., Limongi, F., & Przeworski, A. (ACLP) (1996). Classifying political regimes. Journal of International Comparative Development, 31, 3–36.
Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (1999). Inequality and growth: What can the data say? Ms. Department of Economics, MIT.
Barro, R. J. (1997). Determinants of economic growth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Bénabou, R. (1996). Inequality and growth. In B. Bernanke, & J. Rotemberg (Eds.), NBER macro-economics annual 1996. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Bénabou, R. (2000). Unequal societies: Income distribution and the social contract. American Economic Review, 90, 96–129.
Benhabib, J., & Rustichini, A. (1996). Social conflict and growth. Journal of Economic Growth, 1, 125–142.
Bobbio, N. (1984). The future of democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bourgignon, F., & Verdier, T. (2000). Oligarchy, democracy, inequality, and growth. Journal of Development Economics, 62, 285–313.
Bryce, J. (1921). Modern democracies. London.
Buchanan, J., & Tullock, G. (1962). The calculus of consent: Logical foundations of constitutional democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Calvert, R. (1994). Rational actors, equilibrium, and social Institutions. In J. Knight & I. Sened (Eds.), Explaining social institutions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Calvert, R. (1995). The rational choice theory of social institutions: Cooperation, coordination and communication. In J. S. Banks, & E. A. Hanushek (Eds.), Modern political economy (pp. 216–268). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Condorcet. (1986) (1785). Essai sur I’application de I’analyse a la probabilité des décisions rendues a la pluralité des voix. In Sur les élections et autres textes. Textes choisis et revus par Olivier de Bernon. Paris: Fayard.
Dahl, R. (1971). Polyarchy: Participation and opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Deininger, K., & Squire, L. (1996). A new data set measuring income inequality. World Bank Economic Review, 10, 565–591.
Dixit, A., Grossman, G. G., & Gul, F. (2000). The dynamics of political compromise. Journal of Political Economy, 108, 531–568.
Ellman, M., & Wantchekon, L. (2000). Electoral competition under the threat of political unrest. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, 499–531.
Hampton, J., (1994). Democracy and the rule of law. In I. Shapiro (Ed.), The rule of law, Nomos XXXVI (pp. 13–45)
Hardin, R. (1989). Why a constitution? In B. Grofman, & D. Witman (Eds.), The federalist papers and the new institutionalism (pp. 100–120). New York: Agathon Press.
Helliwell, J. (1994). Empirical linkages between democracy and economic growth. British Journal of Political Science, 24, 225–248.
Kelsen, H., (1988) (1929). La Démocratie. Sa Nature-Sa Valeur. Paris: Economica.
Kornhauser, L. A. (1999). The normativity of law. American Law and Economics Review, 1(1/2), 3–25.
Perotti, R. (1993). Political equilibrium, income distribution, and growth. Review of Economic Studies, 60, 755–776.
Przeworski, A. (1991). Democracy and the market. Political and economic reforms in eastern Europe and Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Przeworski, A., & Limongi, F. (1997). Modernization: Theories and facts, World Politics, 49
Przeworski, A., Alvarez, M., Cheibub, J. A., & Limongi, F. (2000). Democracy and development: Political regimes and material welfare in the world, 1950–1990. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rodrik, D. (1998). Democracies pay higher wages. NBER Working Paper No 6364. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Roemer, J. E. (2001). Political competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Saint Paul, G., & Verdier, T. (1996). Inequality, redistribution and growth: A challenge to the conventional political economy approach. European Economic Review, 40, 719–728.
Schmitt, K. (1988). The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Searle, J. R. (1995). The construction of social reality. New York: Free Press.
Weingast, B. R. (1997). Political foundations of democracy and the rule of law. American Political Science Review, 91, 245–263.
About this article
Cite this article
Przeworski, A. Democracy as an equilibrium. Public Choice 123, 253–273 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-005-7163-4
- Public Finance
- Political Party
- Poor Country
- Develop Society
- Democratic Culture