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Faculty of Economics

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Toscani, F.

Why High Human Capital Makes Good Revolutionaries: The Role of the Middle Classes in Democratisation


Abstract: This paper studies how human capital affects agents' tendency to participate in revolutions and consequently political outcomes. We show that since human capital is not expropriatable in the way land or other assets are, revolutions are more attractive if human capital is an important source of income. Specifically, we present a model of involuntary franchise extensions in which we establish a formal link between the increasing importance of human capital as a source of income for mainly the middle classes in 19th century Europe and franchise extensions. Intuitively, agents become less change averse when their income cannot be expropriated and thus larger and larger concessions from the elite are necessary to avoid any upheaval. We show that the higher human capital is in a country, the more the elite use 'populist' policies aimed at garnering the support of the poor and the larger are the franchise extensions which the elite use to counter a revolutionary threat. While we derive the mechanism linki ng human capital and democratisation by looking at 19th century Europe it might play an important role more generally, notably in the wave of democratisations in Latin America in the 1980s and in the current Arab uprisings.

Keywords: Democratisation, Involuntary Franchise Extensions, Human Capital, Middle Class

JEL Codes: D72 D74 J24 P16 H10


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