The Legacy of Representation in Medieval Europe for Incomes and Institutions Today
60 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 30, 2020
Why can some governments credibly commit to the rule of law and protection of property rights while others cannot? A potential answer involves deep historical traditions of institutions that constrain rulers. We explore whether experiences with representative assemblies in medieval/early modern Europe have left their mark on incomes and institutions today. We employ Stasavage’s (2010) data on representative assembly activity in 30 medieval/early modern European polities and the Putterman and Weil (2010) data on descendancy shares from circa 1500 populations to construct country-level measures of historical assembly experience. In a cross-country analysis, we find that assembly experience is positively and significantly correlated with current incomes, a measure of the rule of law and property rights, and the Polity IV index that emphasizes executive constraint. Once the latter two variables are controlled for, the estimated effect of assembly experience on current incomes is insignificant.
Keywords: representative assemblies, political economy, medieval, institutions, property rights, rule of law, growth and development
JEL Classification: D72, O10, O43, P14, P16, P48, P50
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