Empirical Public Economics
Elgar original reference
Edited by Attiat F. Ott and Richard J. Cebula
6 Public good provision by dictatorships: a survey Robert T. Deacon and Sarani Saha 1 Introduction and motivation A dictatorial government is one that does not grant signiﬁcant political powers to its population or their representatives. By this deﬁnition, dictatorships are not at all uncommon. They constituted a majority of the world’s governments between 1950 and 1991 and comprised over 40 per cent at the start of the 21st century.1 During the period since 1970 roughly half of the world’s countries in any given year did not have legislatures that exercised signiﬁcant power and 46 per cent either prohibited political activity or restricted it to a single ofﬁcial party.2 It is easy to dismiss dictatorships as aberrations in an otherwise democratic world because many of them hold elections and display other trappings of democracy. Indeed, since 1950 over half of all countries classiﬁed as a dictatorship had an elected chief executive, and over 70 per cent had elected legislatures.3 Whether by limiting ballot choices, by rigging the results, or by dominating those who are elected, the authoritarian rulers of these countries permitted elections without ceding their absolute power. All dictatorships provide public goods to some degree, but casual empiricism suggests that the levels provided fall short of what democracy would produce. There is also evidence that the quality of public services declines when dictatorship is imposed and improves when dictatorship is replaced.4 After Nigeria came under military rule in 1983, the proportion of children staying...
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