La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Part 2 of the midwest paper....(which is still not done....EEEK).

Second: social spending and democratic political institutions. Though Tsebelis has a good argument about why veto players reduce change, some political scientists insist on trying to explain variations in levels of social spending by differences in political institutions. For instance, when you have many political parties in the legislature or parliament, you're likely to see more (a higher level of ) spending on social programs because of logrolling. (The Tsebelis-type argument says you can't predict the level of spending, just the rate at which it will change.) Swank calls this a characteristic "inclusive electoral institutions," like proportional representation (which is directly related to the effective number of parties).

On the other hand, "dispersion of decision-making authority" (Swank) results in lower levels of spending. Dispersion is higher in governments with federalism, bi-cameralism (that's 2 houses in the legislature), and the use of referendums. The book by Swank and articles by Birchfield (my friend, Vicki) and Crepaz (1998) and Crepaz and Moser (2004) all model these relationships in OECD countries.

For OECD data on social programs and inequality, this literature finds that proportional representation and more parties leads to higher levels of spending, and that federalism, bi-cameralism, and divided government lead to lower levels of spending.

So....I try to see if the same results apply to middle-income countries in my sample. And they don't...or at least not consistently.

Why? Because....the Tsebelis notion of political veto players is probably right....Institutions don't predict levels of spending well, but they should predict the amount of change in spending. That is, political institutions and veto players can predict the amount of "social spending stability" (an analogue to Tsebelis's notion of "policy stability").

Coming soon....Part 3: Social spending stability and political institutions.

BTW: Look Freaks and Geeks on video. Listen to the review on NPR.

posted by Michelle @ 3:54 PM,


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