Sebastián Mazzuca

Johns Hopkins University
Department of Political Science
338 Mergenthaler Hall
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2015The Paradox of Civilization: Pre-Institutional Sources of Security and Prosperity
with Ernesto Dal Bó, Pablo Hernández: w21829
The rise of civilizations involved the dual emergence of economies that could produce surplus (“prosperity”) and states that could protect surplus (“security”). But the joint achievement of security and prosperity had to escape a paradox: prosperity attracts predation, and higher insecurity discourages the investments that create prosperity. We study the trade-offs facing a proto-state on its path to civilization through a formal model informed by the anthropological and historical literatures on the origin of civilizations. We emphasize pre-institutional forces, such as physical aspects of the geographical environment, that shape productive and defense capabilities. The solution of the civilizational paradox relies on high defense capabilities, natural or manmade. We show that higher init...
March 2006Political Conflict and Power-sharing in the Origins of Modern Colombia
with James A. Robinson: w12099
In this paper we present historical evidence and a theoretical analysis of the origins of political stability and instability in Colombia for the period 1850-1950, and their relationship to political, particularly electoral, institutions. We show that the driving force behind institutional change over this period, specifically the move to proportional representation (PR), was the desire of the Conservative and Liberal parties to come up with a way of credibly dividing power to avoid civil war and conflict, a force intensified by the brutal conflict of the War of a Thousand days between 1899 and 1902. The problem with majoritarian electoral institutions was that they did not allocate power in a way which matched the support of the parties in the population, thus encouraging conflict. The st...

Published: Mazzuca, Sebastián and James A. Robinson. “Political Conflict and Power-sharing in the Origins of Modern Colombia." Hispanic American Historical Review 89 (2009): 285-321.

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