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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Electoral institutions, parties, and the politics of class: Why some democracies redistribute more than others


We develop a general model of redistribution and use it to account for the remarkable variance in government redistribution across democracies. We show that the electoral system plays a key role because it shapes the nature of political parties and the composition of governing coalitions, whether these are conceived as electoral alliances between classes or alliances between class parties. Our argument implies a) that center-left governments dominate under PR systems, while center-right governments dominate under majoritarian systems, and b) 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.

We thank Jim Alt, Klaus Armingeon, Neal Beck, David Brady, Geoffrey Brennan, Gary Cox, Thomas Cusack, Jeff Frieden, Robert Goodin, Peter Hall, Peter Lange, Peter Katzenstein, Robert Keohane, Herbert Kitschelt, Gerard Roland, Fritz Scharpf, Ken Shepsle and participants in the Workshop on the economic consequences of democratic institutions, Department of Political Science, Duke University, April 1-2, 2005 for their many helpful comments on a previous version of this paper.

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