Democracy as a middle ground: A unified theory of development and political regimes

Anna Larsson Seim, Stephen L. Parente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although many of the worst performing countries over the post-World War II period were autocracies, many of the best were likewise autocratic. At the same time, no long-lived autocracy currently is rich whereas every long-lived democracy is. This paper proposes a theory to account for these observations that rests on the ideas that autocrats are heterogeneous and that elites experience lower land rents with industrialization. In a model calibrated to Britain's development, we show that elites democratize society only after the economy has accumulated enough wealth, and that the democratization date depends importantly on the history of rulers and distribution of land.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-56
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Economic Review
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Autocracy
  • Democracy
  • Elites
  • Land inequality
  • Unified growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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