Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The decline of clientelism in politics?

I love this paragraph in the article by Bardhan in the Journal of Economic Literature: "As incomes rise and markets develop, the need for political connections for jobs or personalized help may decline (though rather slowly, as many cases in southern Italy suggest even now); also, voters become more expensive to buy. With the spread of education and information, the importance of the local vote mobilizer who provides selective benefits (the proverbial ward captain in Chicago precincts) diminishes, and herding of voters by ethnicity or regional affinity may also decline. With the development of transport and communication, the reduction of territorial insulation allows for supralocal affinities that may diminish the importance of the local patron." Something similar could be said about clientelism inside political parties: party members' loyalty now is more expensive, and at the same time party bosses in mainstream parties have less to offer because voters' support is eroding. The problem is that it is not automatic that clientelism will be replaced with something better. Are plutocracy and populism the only alternatives?

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