Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1172: Political Power, Resistance to Technological Change and Economic Development: Evidence from the 19th century Sweden

Björn Tyrefors Hinnerich (), Erik Lindgren () and Per Pettersson-Lidbom ()
Additional contact information
Björn Tyrefors Hinnerich: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: and Department of Economics, Stockholm University
Erik Lindgren: Department of Economics, Stockholm University
Per Pettersson-Lidbom: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Abstract: This paper empirically tests the hypothesis that landed elites may block technological change and economic development if they fear that they will lose future political power (Acemoglu and Robinson (2002, 2006, and 2012). It exploits a plausible exogenous change in the distribution of political power of the landed elites, i.e., a Swedish suffrage reform in 1862 which extended the voting rights to industrialists at the local level. Importantly, the votes were also weighted according to taxes paid. Thus, the higher taxes paid the more votes received. As a result, the landed elites had an incentive to block industrialization and technological progress since they otherwise would be “political losers”. We find that the change in political power from the landed elites to industrialists, through the extension of suffrage rights, lead to more investments in railways, faster structural change, and higher firm productivity. We also find that the change of political power affected both labor coercion and the adaption of labor-saving technologies within the agriculture sector along the lines suggested by Acemoglu and Wolitzky (2011) and Acemoglu (2010). Specifically, we find that is more labor coercion and less investments in labor-saving technologies in areas were landowners have more political power. We also provide evidence that many demographic outcomes were affected by the change in political power. Moreover, we find strong evidence of persistence in both extractive economic and political institutions even after the weighted voting system was abolished and universal suffrage introduced in 1919. Specifically, local governments that were previously political controlled by the landed elites were still using both extractive economic and political institutions (Acemoglu and Robinson (2008)).

Keywords: Economic development and growth; Political institutions; Technological change; Industrialization; Labor coercion; Labor-saving technologies; Persistence of extractive economic and political institutions

JEL-codes: E22; E23; E24; E62; F15; H41; H52; H53; H70; J10; J21; J22; J23; J24; J31; J32; J41; J43; J47; N10; N33; N53; N63; N73; N93; O10; O14; O15; O18; O33; O40; O52; R10; R42

64 pages, June 21, 2017

Full text files

wp1172.pdf PDF-file 

Download statistics

Questions (including download problems) about the papers in this series should be directed to Elisabeth Gustafsson ()
Report other problems with accessing this service to Sune Karlsson ().

This page generated on 2018-01-23 23:34:52.