AbstractsPolitical Science

Essays on Elite Persistence, Accountability, and Representation

by Rivera Carlos Velasco

Institution: Princeton University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Autocracies; Bureaucrats; Party alignment; Party organization; Political dynasties
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2067031
Full text PDF: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01f7623g06k


This dissertation consists of three empirical chapters on elite persistence, accountability, and representation. The first chapter examines the determinants of dynastic politicians in democracies. In the chapter I introduce a theoretical framework where parties face a trade-off between nominating strong but undisciplined dynastic politicians, or loyal but weak non-dynastic candidates. Under this framework, I predict that parties rely on dynasts only in districts where their organizations are weak. I test this prediction in the context of Victorian Britain, and show results broadly consistent with the theory. The main findings in the chapter suggest that party strength is key to explain the variation in the incidence of dynasties across time and countries. In the second chapter, I examine how partisan alignment between politicians (co-partisanship) affects bureaucratic performance and policy outcomes. The chapter introduces a theory where only co-partisan legislators can credibly threaten to punish bureaucrats. I predict that co-partisan legislators are more likely to sponsor, and bureaucrats to approve, projects associated with higher rents. I also predict that legislators, anticipating a favorable disposition from bureaucrats, use more resources during periods of partisan alignment. I provide evidence supporting these predictions based on a unique dataset of works implemented under India's Member of Parliament Local Development Scheme. Finally, in the third chapter, co-authored with Scott Abramson, we estimate the impact of personal power on stability and institutional development in autocracies. Following the literature of dynasties in democracies, we propose a leader's tenure as proxy for his political capital. We then exploit the random timing of natural deaths for a set of European monarchs, and show their successors were deposed less frequently and less likely to face parliamentary constraints. We also show that the effect of tenure on successor deposal is at least as large as the one associated with succession orders  – an institution that has received recent attention in the literature. Our results are consistent with a theoretical account we develop wherein leaders accumulate political power the longer they are in office which then determines patterns of succession, stability, and institutional development in autocracies. Advisors/Committee Members: Boix, Carles (advisor).