Elite Identity and Political Accountability: A Tale of Ten Islands
Emancipation of slaves in the 1830s transformed the political elites of the British-Caribbean plantation islands. New elites were more accountable to the citizenry. We develop a theory in which two factors limit and possibly reverse the effect of this on political outcomes, with legislators (i) ‘stepping up to pass extractive policies and/or (ii) weakening democratic institutions. The theory is supported by an historical analysis of ten Caribbean plantation islands, based on original archival data on legislator race, occupation and roll-call voting. Eventually, all assemblies that experienced a significant change in composition dissolved themselves and converted to British ‘Crown Rule’.
We thank the editor and three anonymous referees, as well as Daron Acemoglu, Toke Aidt, Lee Alston, Alberto Bisin, Melissa Dell, Alan Dye, Price Fishback, Raphael Franck, Paola Giuliano, Sanjeev Goyal, Mark Koyama, Michael McBride, Kaivan Munshi, Torsten Persson, Jared Rubin, Ken Shotts, Stergios Skaperdas, Virgil Storr, Dan Trefler, Romain Wacziarg, Stephane Wolton, Peyton Young, participants at the 2018 ERINN conference, the 2018 LSE-NYU Conference on Political Science and Political Economy, the 2017 ASREC Conference, the 2016 NES Coference on Social Interactions, Norms and Development, the NBER summer meetings, and seminar participants at NYU, Bristol, Cambridge, and UC Irvine for comments and discussions. ColeWilliams, Freda Jia, Vero Rogers-Thomas, Tessa Seager, and Jake Kantor provided excellent research assistance. We also thank Christopher Brennan at UCLA Library for going beyond the call of duty in assisting us with interlibrary loans to obtain historical Caribbean plantation records. A previous version of this paper was circulated as “Autocracy as a Safety Valve for Democracy’s Elites.” Financial support from UCLA’s Burkle Center, Center for Economic History and Price Center are gratefully acknowledged.The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Jean-Paul Carvalho & Christian Dippel, 2020. "Elite Identity and Political Accountability: A Tale of Ten Islands," The Economic Journal, vol 130(631), pages 1995-2029.