Land and Power: Theory and Evidence from Chile

53 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006 Last revised: 15 Sep 2021

See all articles by Jean-Marie Baland

Jean-Marie Baland

Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)

James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2006

Abstract

We study the connection between employment and political control. Many employment relationships concede rents to workers. For example, when worker effort is crucial for production, but only imperfectly observed. We show that, depending on the political institutions, the presence of such rents allows employers to use the threat of withdrawing them to control their workers' political behavior. We thus demonstrate that employment does not simply generate income, it also gives power to control the behavior of others. The analysis focuses on the salient example of political control, where landlords coerce the votes of their workers in the absence of a secret ballot. The model we develop generates predictions about electoral outcomes which can be tested by investigating the impact of the introduction of an effective secret ballot. Such an institutional reform reduces landlords' control, and in consequence, we should observe changes in voting behavior, since workers whose votes were previously controlled and sold can now vote freely. We test the predictions of the model by examining in detail the effects of the introduction of the secret ballot in Chile in 1958. We show that, consistent with our theory, the political reforms led to large changes in voting behavior. Before the reforms, localities with more pervasive patron-client relationships tend to exhibit a much stronger support for the right-wing parties, traditionally associated with the landed oligarchy. After the reform however, this difference across localities completely disappeared.

Suggested Citation

Baland, Jean-Marie and Robinson, James A., Land and Power: Theory and Evidence from Chile (September 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12517, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=930607

Jean-Marie Baland

Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP) ( email )

8 Rempart de la Vierge
B-5000 Namur
Belgium

James A. Robinson (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2839 (Phone)
617-495-8292 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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