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Who’s to Blame? The Distribution of Responsibility in Developing Democracies


International structures tie the hands of policy makers in the developing world. Dependency on the world economy is blamed for low growth, high volatility and less redistribution of income than average, but the effect of international constraints on mass politics is relatively unknown. This study examines how citizens of developing democracies assign responsibility for policy outcomes. A theory of the distribution of responsibility, combining insights from the political economy of development and the study of mass behaviour, is presented. Evidence from seventeen Latin American countries shows that citizens often blame policy outcomes on international and private-sector actors, to which they, as voters, have no direct recourse. Ties to world markets and the International Monetary Fund, especially foreign debt, shift responsibility towards international actors and tend to exonerate national politicians.

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Joshua A. Tucker , Regional Economic Voting: Russia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, 1990–1999 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Alberto Alesina and Howard Rosenthal , Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Raymond M. Duch and Randolph T. Stevenson , The Economic Vote: How Political and Economic Institutions Condition Election Results (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Layna Mosley , Global Capital and National Governments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Morris Goldstein , ‘Debt Sustainability, Brazil, and the IMF’, Institute for International Economics, February 2003

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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