A Theory of Minimalist Democracy
A majority of the world democracies are far from the benchmark of representative democracy. This paper presents a model of political transitions based on a minimalist conception of the democratic state, i.e. a form of government solely characterized by competitive elections. We show that the model can produce dynamics of transition into democracy without requiring any role for redistribution or representation of voters, but solely based on interactions among the ruling elites. This allows the model to match several relevant stylized facts concerning the organization of new and consolidating democracies, weakly institutionalized countries, and hybrid regimes.
The authors would like to thank Chad Kendall, Lin Zhang, Gerard Padro-i-Miquel and seminar participants at CIFAR, UBC, NBER Summer Institute, and IMT Lucca for useful comments and discussion. We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for financial support. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.