Representation Without Taxation: The King's Dilemma 2.0
36 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 4 Sep 2012
Date Written: August 2012
In 1968, Huntington argued that a “king’s dilemma” confronted traditional monarchies struggling to modernize. He held that rulers’ efforts to undertake social and economic reforms, while necessary for development, typically produce new social groups with heightened demands for political participation. As a result, he predicted a rocky future for the world’s remaining traditional monarchies, expecting that most monarchs would not be able to solve the “king’s dilemma” in a peaceful, orderly manner. Forty years later, however, quite a few traditional monarchies remain, with those in the Middle East showing remarkable resilience even in the wake of the Arab Spring. As a result, a number of scholars have sought to explain why Huntington’s expectations of monarchical breakdown have not come to pass in so many cases, turning, for example, to rentier theory (Luciani, 1990) or the domination of key government posts by members of tightly-knit dynastic ruling families (Herb, 1999).
This paper argues, on the contrary, that the essence of Huntington’s micro-level causal argument was correct, even if monarchical breakdown has not occurred as rapidly or as uniformly as he expected. Simply because oil-rich monarchies in the Gulf, for example, have not yet come undone does not mean that their efforts at top-down modernization have failed to produce new social groups with heightened demands for political participation. In other words, Huntington was too quick to see an unbroken causal chain linking micro-level changes in citizens’ demands to macro-level changes in stability and regime type. His argument about micro-level causal effects, moreover, did not address the actual content of citizens’ demands, a potentially crucial variable.
Using a difference-in-differences survey design (n=4,714), this paper explores how a flagship modernizing initiative has affected citizens’ demands within the United Arab Emirates, a long-standing traditional monarchy. By comparing high school students in treatment and control schools across "pre" and "post" grade cohorts, I estimate the micro-level causal effects of a public school reform, which is a central part of the rulers' larger strategy of modernization and social engineering for a post-petroleum knowledge-based economy. Preliminary results suggest that Gulf monarchs may be facing a rather more nuanced challenge than what Huntington described with the “king’s dilemma.” While treated students show remarkably greater nationalism and pride in country, they also believe significantly more passionately in their right as UAE citizens to a government job. Moreover, they are less willing than their counterparts of the same age in regular government schools to pay an income tax or pay for utilities such as electricity and water. Finally, they themselves are significantly more interested in contributing to political decision-making, though they do not show higher support for political participation of UAE nationals in general. The paper suggests that today’s Gulf monarchs may face a “king’s dilemma 2.0,” that is, the risk that top-down modernizing reforms not only create politically conscious citizens, but particularly demanding citizens who want to be represented without being taxed.
Keywords: social engineering, modernization, citizen formation, political socialization
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