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Major land reform programs have reallocated property in more than one-third of the world's countries in the last century and impacted over one billion people. But only rarely have these programs granted beneficiaries complete property rights. Why is this the case, and what are the consequences? This book draws on wide-ranging original data and charts new conceptual terrain to reveal the political origins of the property rights gap. It shows that land reform programs are most often implemented by authoritarian governments who deliberately withhold property rights from beneficiaries. In so doing, governments generate coercive leverage over rural populations and exert social control. This is politically advantageous to ruling governments but it has negative development consequences: it slows economic growth, productivity, and urbanization and it exacerbates inequality. The book also examines the conditions under which subsequent governments close property rights gaps, usually as a result of democratization or foreign pressure.
Most countries in the world operate under authoritarian constitutions. Historically, Latin American countries have been overrepresented in this group. Many of these authoritarian constitutions have proven remarkably sticky. The most long-lived ones not only govern the authoritarian regimes that pen them but subsequently constrain democratic successors long after the end of dictatorship.
On average, these constitutions are relatively strong as defined in this volume: they achieve their statutory goals and produce outcomes their authors and bequeathers intended them to produce. Historically, their authors and bequeathers have used them to satisfy a narrow set of objectives: secure the safety and welfare of outgoing dictators as well as safeguard the political and economic interests of their core supporters. These constitutions are also consequential, distorting democracy in favor of these former dictators and supporters.
Canonical theories of political economy struggle to explain patterns of distribution in authoritarian regimes. In this Element, Albertus, Fenner, and Slater challenge existing models and introduce an alternative, supply-side, and state-centered theory of 'coercive distribution'. Authoritarian regimes proactively deploy distributive policies as advantageous strategies to consolidate their monopoly on power. These policies contribute to authoritarian durability by undercutting rival elites and enmeshing the masses in lasting relations of coercive dependence. The authors illustrate the patterns, timing, and breadth of coercive distribution with global and Latin American quantitative evidence and with a series of historical case studies from regimes in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. By recognizing distribution's coercive dimensions, they account for empirical patterns of distribution that do not fit with quasi-democratic understandings of distribution as quid pro quo exchange. Under authoritarian conditions, distribution is less an alternative to coercion than one of its most effective expressions.