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Dictators depend on a committed bureaucracy to implement their policy preferences. But how do they induce loyalty and effort within their civil service? The authors study indoctrination through forced military service as a cost-effective strategy for achieving this goal. Conscription allows the regime to expose recruits, including future civil servants, to intense “political training” in a controlled environment, which should improve system engagement. To test this hypothesis, the authors analyze archival data on over 370,000 cadres from the former German Democratic Republic. Exploiting the introduction of mandatory service in the gdr in 1962 for causal identification, they find a positive effect of conscription on bureaucrats’ system engagement. Additional analyses indicate that this effect likely did not result from deep norm internalization. Findings are more compatible with the idea that political training familiarized recruits with elite preferences, allowing them to behave strategically in accordance with the rules of the game.
Why has voter turnout declined in democracies all over the world? This article draws on findings from microlevel studies and theorizes two explanations: generational change and a rise in the number of elective institutions. The empirical section tests these hypotheses along with other explanations proposed in the literature—shifts in party/candidate competition, voting-age reform, weakening group mobilization, income inequality, and economic globalization. The authors conduct two analyses. The first analysis employs an original data set covering all post-1945 democratic national elections. The second studies individual-level data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and British, Canadian, and US national election studies. The results strongly support the generational change and elective institutions hypotheses, which account for most of the decline in voter turnout. These findings have important implications for a better understanding of the current transformations of representative democracy and the challenges it faces.
Can governments elected under mixed-member majoritarian (mmm) electoral systems use geographically targeted spending to increase their chances of staying in office, and if so, how? Although twenty-eight countries use mmm electoral systems, scant research has addressed this question. The authors explain how mmm’s combination of electoral systems in two unlinked tiers creates a distinct strategic environment in which a large party and a small party can trade votes in one tier for votes in the other tier in a way that increases the number of seats won by both. They then explain how governing parties dependent on vote trading can use geographically targeted spending to cement it. These propositions are tested using original data from Japan (2003–2013) and Mexico (2012–2016). In both cases, municipalities in which the supporters of governing parties split their ballots as instructed were found to have received more money after elections. The findings have broad implications for research on mmm electoral systems, distributive politics, and the politics of Japan and Mexico.
The centralization of conflict resolution and the administration of justice, two crucial elements of state formation, are often ignored by the state-building literature. This article studies the monopolization of justice administration, using the historical example of the General Indian Court (gic) of colonial Mexico. The author argues that this court’s development and decision-making process can show us how the rule of law develops in highly authoritarian contexts. Centralized courts could be used strategically to solve an agency problem, limiting local elites’ power and monitoring state agents. To curb these actors’ power, the Spanish Crown allowed the indigenous population to raise claims and access property rights. But this access remained limited and subject to the Crown’s strategic considerations. The author’s theory predicts that a favorable ruling for the indigenous population was more likely in cases that threatened to increase local elites’ power. This article shows the conditions under which the rule of law can emerge in a context where a powerful ruler is interested in imposing limits on local powers—and on their potential predation of the general population. It also highlights the endogenous factors behind the creation of colonial institutions and the importance of judicial systems in colonial governance.
Between the mid-1990s and the mid-2010s, the Chinese government was distinctly open to the Western offer of democracy-assistance programs. It cooperated with a number of Western organizations to improve the rule of law, village elections, administrative capacity, and civil society in China. Why did the Chinese government engage with democracy promoters who tried to develop these democratic attributes within China? The author argues that the government intended to use Western aid to its advantage. The Chinese Communist Party had launched governance reforms to strengthen its regime legitimacy, and Chinese officials found that Western democracy assistance could be used to facilitate their own governance-reform programs. The article traces the process of how the government’s strategic intention translated into policies of selective openness, and includes evidence from firsthand interviews, propaganda materials, and research by Chinese experts. The findings show how democracy promoters and authoritarian leaders have different expectations of the effects of limited democratic reform within nondemocratic systems. Empirically, reflecting on the so-called golden years of China’s engagement with the West sheds new light on the Chinese Communist Party’s survival strategy through authoritarian legitimation.