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Constitutional Environment and Entrepreneurship: An Empirical Study


Built on the theories about talent competition between rent-seeking and entrepreneurship, and the theories about constitutional environment and rent-seeking, this dissertation explores empirically the effects of a country's constitutional settings on entrepreneurship, in terms of the quantity of entrepreneurs and the quality of their performance. Both the de facto and de jure constitutional environments are studied. In particular, with respect to the de facto constitutional environment, I considered the property rights protection, decentralization, and the factors suggested by the "selectorate theory". In relation to the de jure constitutional environment, I focused on six aspects including electoral rules, form of government, federalism, property rights protection, judicial independence and antidiscrimination provisions. Three indexes were constructed to measure the de jure property rights protection, judicial independence and antidiscrimination provisions, using the data set provided by the Comparative Constitution Project.

The empirical study first shows that the quantity of entrepreneurs is inversely correlated with the quality of entrepreneurship in a country. If entrepreneurship does serve as the engine of economic growth, it is perhaps the quality, rather than quantity, that matters. This study then demonstrates that the de facto property rights protection is associated negatively with the quantity of entrepreneurs, but positively with the quality of entrepreneurship. The effects of the two key factors of the selectorate theory, the size of the winning coalition and the ratio of this size to the size of the selectorate, also appear to be compatible with what the theory is to predict. On the other hand, neither fiscal nor political decentralization is found to significantly affect entrepreneurship. Among the de jure constitutional features, two have significant influence on entrepreneurship. First, the constitutional design of judicial independence has a negative effect on the quantity of entrepreneurs, but a positive one on the quality of their performance. Second, majoritarian electoral rules, compared with non-majoritarian rules, have a negative effect on the quality of entrepreneurship. In contrast, the presumed effects of the other three formal constitutional attributes, federalism, presidentialism and property rights protection, cannot be ascertained.

Apart from the cross-country study, I also conducted a detailed research on China. Entrepreneurship in China is a case of entrepreneurial development in an authoritarian state lack of secure property rights and the rule of law, hence afflicted with profuse rent-seeking activities. Under these circumstances, entrepreneurship hinges on both the rent-seeking and the entrepreneurial abilities. Drawing on the private enterprise surveys, I found that, in China, the politically connected were systematically advantaged in terms of bank finance, entry to regulated industries and judicial treatment, when they plunged into the business world. The Chinese case also indicates that, when entrepreneurs cannot trust the commitment made by the state in the constitution, they will be eager to scoop profits as soon as possible and exit swiftly with accumulated wealth.

Finally, this dissertation concludes by suggesting that a healthy development of entrepreneurship should be sustainable rather than aiming merely at quick money and instant success. It should allow all talented people to reach their full potentials, rather than keep the politically disconnected away from resources needed to make the best use of their potentials. Above all, it wants a constitutional environment with reliable property rights and equal access to opportunities, neither of which is seen in today's China.

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