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Electoral Institutions and the Politics of Coalitions: Why Some Democracies Redistribute More Than Others

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2006

Harvard University
Duke University, London School of Economics and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin


Standard political economy models of redistribution, notably that of Meltzer and Richard (1981), fail to account for the remarkable variance in government redistribution across democracies. We develop a general model of redistribution that explains why some democratic governments are more prone to redistribute than others. We show that the electoral system plays a key role because it shapes the nature of political parties and the composition of governing coalitions, hence redistribution. Our argument implies (1) that center-left governments dominate under PR systems, whereas center-right governments dominate under majoritarian systems; and (2) that PR systems redistribute more than majoritarian systems. We test our argument on panel data for redistribution, government partisanship, and electoral system in advanced democracies.

© 2006 by the American Political Science Association

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