Media, Development, and Institutional Change

Media, Development, and Institutional Change

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson

Media, Development, and Institutional Change investigates mass media’s profound ability to affect institutional change and economic development. The authors use the tools of economics to illuminate the media’s role in enabling and inhibiting political–economic reforms that promote development.

Chapter 5: Case Studies of Media, Institutions, and the Reformers’ Dilemma

Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson

Subjects: economics and finance, austrian economics, institutional economics


INTRODUCTION The previous chapter provided a statistical analysis of the relationship between media freedom and citizens’ political knowledge and political participation. These findings provide evidence that citizens are more politically ignorant and apathetic in those countries where government has greater control over the media. This analysis is important for quantifying the impact of state involvement in the media and for identifying the channel that links media, information, and development. However, these statistical tests do not directly capture the key causal mechanisms central to our overall argument. For example, the statistical analysis fails to capture the full array of ways government manipulates the media or the process through which an independent press emerges. Further, the previous analysis does not provide detailed insight into media’s dual roles as a catalyst of change and a mechanism for reinforcing changes, or into media’s three effects—gradual effect, punctuation effect, and reinforcement effect—on policy and institutional change. We complement the previous chapter’s statistical analysis with three country case studies—Mexico, Russia, and Poland. These allow us to explore the various causal mechanisms presented in previous chapters in more detail, while paying careful attention to the specific context in which the media exists and evolves. Because the trajectory of a country’s media cannot be separated from its political, economic, and social contexts, this method is fitting for our topic of study. For each case we consider media’s historical background, the factors that contributed to increases or decreases in media freedom, and media’s impact on the...

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