Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 November 2002
What are the most important cleavages created by political struggles over redistributive economic policies? What are the likely policy outcomes of these struggles? The classic answer to the first question is that the most important cleavage is that of class, dividing rich and poor. The class-based model is usually not taken to yield clear predictions about outcomes, because rich and poor would be expected to engage in an inconclusive bidding war for the support of the median voter or pivotal middle stratum. A more recent answer is that the most important cleavages will reflect the position of a given country in the international economy, pitting those benefiting from international trade against those hurt by it. This trade-based model yields stronger predictions about outcomes, since there is usually a clear majority that either does or does not benefit from international trade. Finally, there is a long, though loose, tradition that largely grows out of empirical observation. This emphasizes the pivotal role that the agricultural population appears to play in the more important political battles concerning institutional development and economic policy.
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