Investigating Capitalism Aversion
32 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2008
Augustin Landier, David Thesmar and Mathias ThoenigThere are two non-mutually exclusive theories of individual variations in pro-capitalism opinions. The first theory views pro-capitalism opinions as self-serving: Individuals are opposed to market forces when they threaten their economic rents. The second theory views differences in such opinions as reflecting genuine disagreement on the efficiency of various economic systems. Using individual data, we investigate the validity of both theories, focusing on attitudes toward private ownership, private profit and competition. We find evidence that the first theory explains some of the variations in attitudes. However, consistent with the second theory, we also find evidence of individual learning about the comparative virtues of economic systems. The learning is slow, home-biased and path-dependent. Long-run cultural and historical determinants of pro-market attitudes, such as religion and legal origins, explain more than 40% of the cross-country variations in capitalism aversion. Last, we provide tentative evidence that at the country level, pro-market opinions affect the nature of economic institutions. Our results suggest that the feasibility of economic reform does not depend solely on its impact on the distribution of rents; ideological a-prioris are likely to be important as well.
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