Out of Order

Kevin Lewis

June 22, 2022

From past lies to current misconduct: The long shadow of China's Great Leap Forward
Shuo Chen et al.
Journal of Development Economics, June 2022

Using hand-collected data on yield over-reporting during China's Great Leap Forward (GLF) period, we find that GLF over-reporting in a chairperson's province of origin strongly predicts corporate financial misconduct today. Evidence from a variety of identification strategies establishes a causal relationship. We also extend our analyses to other aspects of corporate misconduct and local dishonest behaviors. We show that GLF over-reporting has shifted social norms toward a present-day tolerance for dishonesty. Our findings suggest that wrongdoings by local government officials in the past can lead to adverse effects on people's future behavior in the form of cheating.

Poor Prospects -- Not Inequality -- Motivate Political Violence
Henrikas Bartusevičius & Florian van Leeuwen
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Despite extensive scholarly interest in the association between economic inequality and political violence, the micro-level mechanisms through which the former influences the latter are not well understood. Drawing on pioneering theories of political violence, social psychological research on relative deprivation, and prospect theory from behavioral economics, we examine individual-level processes that underpin the relationship between inequality and political violence. We present two arguments: despite being a key explanatory variable in existing research, perceived lower economic status vis-à-vis other individuals (an indicator of relative deprivation) is unlikely to motivate people to participate in violence; by contrast, although virtually unexplored, a projected decrease in one’s own economic status (prospective decremental deprivation) is likely to motivate violence. Multilevel analyses of probability samples from many African countries provide evidence to support these claims. Based on this, we posit that focusing on changes in living conditions, rather than the status quo, is key for understanding political violence.

Transparency for Authoritarian Stability: Open Government Information and Contention with Institutions in China
Handi Li
Emory University Working Paper, February 2022

It is widely agreed that concern for stability usually leads to the restriction of information in autocracies. However, many non-democratic countries have recently implemented open government information (OGI) — a type of policy transparency measures that allow citizens to identify illegal government behaviors that affect them. I argue, based on the Chinese example, that a regime can promote transparency to redirect popular discontent from the streets to institutional venues, such as the courts, for dispute resolution. Using survey experiments administered online and in the field with low-income rural people about OGI on land-taking compensation, I show that OGI increases citizens’ preference for legal and political institutions and makes them prioritize institutions over protest. Multiple findings suggest that this is because the evidence of local misbehavior increases their perceived fairness of institutions for dispute resolution. Moreover, province-level observational data shows that protest declines with better OGI performance. The study implies that an authoritarian regime can disclose certain negative information to maintain stability.


State of the world 2021: Autocratization changing its nature?
Vanessa Boese et al.
Democratization, forthcoming

This article analyses the state of democracy around the world in 2021. The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 was down to 1989 levels. In 2021, autocracies were on the rise, harbouring 70% of the world population, or 5.4 billion people. There was also a record number of countries autocratizing in 2021: 33 countries, home to 36% of the global population. In recent years, the EU seems to be facing its own wave of autocratization, with 20% of its members autocratizing over the last decade. In addition to the continued downturn in global democracy, this article documents several signs that autocratization is changing in nature. Polarization increased substantially and significantly in 40 countries between 2011 and 2021, and our analysis indicates that polarization increasingly damages democracy especially recently and under anti-pluralist governments. Over the past decade, the data also shows that autocratic governments more frequently used misinformation to shape domestic and international opinion. Finally, with five military coups and one self-coup, 2021 featured an unprecedented increase in coups for this century. These coups contributed to the uptick in the number of closed autocracies in 2021 and seem to signal a shift toward emboldened autocratic actors.

Persistence Despite Revolutions
Alberto Alesina et al.
Harvard Working Paper, May 2022

Can efforts to eradicate inequality in wealth and education eliminate intergenerational persistence of socioeconomic status? The Chinese Communist Revolution and Cultural Revolution aimed to do exactly that. Using newly digitized archival records and contemporary census and household survey data, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges almost half a century after the revolutions. Individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 12 percent more income and have completed more than 11 percent additional years of schooling than those from the rest of the population. We find evidence that human capital (such as knowledge, skills, and values) has been transmitted within the elite families. Moreover, the pre-revolution elite either move to opportunities or stay to benefit from the social capital embodied in kinship networks that have survived the revolutions. These channels allow the pre-revolution elite to rebound after the revolutions, and their socioeconomic status persists despite one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population.


Big Brother Watches You (Even When He's Dead): Surveillance and Long-run Conformity
Francesco D'Acunto, Philip Schnorpfeil & Michael Weber
University of Chicago Working Paper, April 2022

Lack of privacy due to surveillance of personal data, which is becoming ubiquitous around the world, induces persistent conformity to the norms prevalent under the surveillance regime. We document this channel in a unique laboratory---the widespread surveillance of private citizens in East Germany. Exploiting localized variation in the intensity of surveillance before the fall of the Berlin Wall, we show that, at the present day, individuals who lived in high-surveillance counties are more likely to recall they were spied upon, display more conformist beliefs about society and individual interactions, and are hesitant about institutional and social change. Social conformity is accompanied by conformist economic choices: individuals in high-surveillance counties save more and are less likely to take out credit, consistent with norms of frugality. The lack of differences in risk aversion and binding financial constraints by exposure to surveillance helps to support a beliefs channel.


Ideology Backlash: Anticommunist Education and Ideology in South Korea
Stephanie Kang
Brown University Working Paper, May 2022

I investigate the long-term impact of anticommunist education in South Korea on individuals’ political preferences during the years 1954-1987. Based on the individual’s year of birth, I exploit the variation in years of exposure to anticommunist education. I examine the relationship between the duration of exposure to anticommunist education and the individuals’ views on North Korea as well as their politico-economic values. I find that more years of anticommunist education result in individuals identifying themselves with ideas and values that oppose anticommunism. These findings suggest that anticommunist education in South Korea has backfired in the long run. This paper is the first to find a backlash to ideological education over an extended period.


How Mechanization Shapes Coups
Ioannis Choulis et al.
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Civil-military relations are characterized by a fundamental dilemma. To lower coup risk, leaders frequently empower the military, which satisfies the armed forces with the status quo and enables them to fight against threats challenging the civilian leadership. Simultaneously, a too powerful military itself constitutes a potential threat that is capable of overthrowing the government. Our research adds to this debate by examining the impact of mechanization, that is, the degree to which militaries rely on armored vehicles relative to manpower, on coup risk. We discuss several (opposing) mechanisms before developing the theoretical expectation that higher levels of mechanization should lower the likelihood of a coup due to the increased costs of coup execution. Empirical evidence strongly supports this claim and, thus, contributes to our understanding of the emergence of coups as an essential breakdown of civil-military relations, while adding to the debate surrounding the many trade-offs leaders face when coup-proofing their regimes.


Don’t turn around, der Kommissar’s in town: Political officers and coups d’état in authoritarian regimes
Austin Matthews
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming

How do dictators coup-proof their armed forces from within the barracks? Coup-proofing is an important aspect of autocratic survival, but execution can be challenging due to the secrecy of plots and the vast size of the armed forces. Counterbalanced state security forces are more effective at resisting coups, but less effective at noticing signs of plots before they can be launched. If dictators wish to prevent coup attempts from occurring in the first place, they may decide to recruit and commission cadres of loyalists directly into the armed forces as political officers, tasked with monitoring for and reporting signs of disloyalty within the ranks. This article explores the development and use of these political officers within dictatorships, arguing that they are especially effective at preventing coup attempts. It also makes the case that their institutional design, while effective at detecting coup plots, makes them less useful at resisting coups that have reached the execution phase. I test these arguments on a cross-national sample of dictatorships from 1950 to 2010, finding strong evidence that political officers are incredibly effective coup detectors, but not coup resisters. These findings have important implications, particularly as several resilient modern dictatorships continue to rule with well-developed political officer systems.


Friday on My Mind: Re-Assessing the Impact of Protest Size on Government Concessions
Charles Butcher & Jonathan Pinckney
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Do more protesters on the streets make governments likely to grant their demands? Several studies link protest size and government concessions. Yet existing research has limitations: many studies suffer from potential endogeneity due to potential protesters joining protests when they anticipate that concessions are likely, causal mechanisms are often unclear, and many of the most rigorous event-level studies are limited to Western democracies. We reexamine this relationship in a non-Western sample using a novel instrumental variable approach, using Fridays as an instrument for exogenous variation in protest size in predominately Muslim countries. We perform two analyses: one using the NAVCO 3.0 dataset, and the second using the Mass Mobilization in Autocracies Dataset (MMAD). In both analyses exogenous variation in protest size negatively affects the likelihood of concessions. Larger protests are less likely to receive government concessions. We suggest these surprising results point to the importance of unanticipated protests that produce new information about regime stability to motivate government concessions.

Protest and digital adaptation
Rebecca Strauch & Nils Weidmann
Research & Politics, May 2022

Autocratic governments routinely interfere in digital communication technology for political purposes. However, citizens can use different technologies to bypass government interference. This article examines how political protest influences the use of anonymity-preserving digital services in autocracies. Citizens should be more likely to use these tools during high political tension because they fear governmental surveillance or censorship. The analysis combining data on the Tor anonymization network with protest event data demonstrates noticeable increases in Tor usage after days with many protest events but not days with single protest events.


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