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Healthy Investment: Social Stability Risk and Public Health Expenditures in Autocracies
Unformatted Document Text:  I. Introduction: Despite showing considerable variations in the pattern of the social welfare state, democratic systems have been identified to be both systematically and positively correlated with higher levels of social welfare provision, compared with their authoritarian counterparts. The benevolence of democracies is based on the proposition that democracies tend to produce more public goods than autocracies 1 , which has been theorized and tested by numerous studies (Olson 1993; McGuire and Olson 1996; Wintrobe 1998; Alesina, Baqir et al. 1999; Lake and Baum 2001). Such studies indicate that comparative politics have obtained much understanding of the relationship between the level of public goods provision and regime type. However, variations in the provision of social welfare benefits in authoritarian regimes, which are mostly treated as a single category denoting the absence of democracy, are largely insufficiently studied. Authoritarian regimes, just as democracies, show a considerable degree of variations in their political institutional design, which unavoidably poses influences on their domestic policy outputs, one important component of which is social welfare policy. This paper seeks to explain variations in social welfare provision within the authoritarian settings. Specifically, it attempts to answer two questions. First, in the absence of an electoral system, whether authoritarian regimes are incentivized to provide social welfare benefits to the people at all? Second, does difference in political institutions influence the level of social welfare provision in autocracies? The analysis results of this study suggest that while democracies tend to have a larger welfare state, autocracies also have incentives to be benevolent. Though some scholars (Haggard 1990; Huntington 1968) identify developmental states as benevolent social welfare maximizers, it is be both theoretically and empirically important to explain why some autocracies are more benevolent than others. I explore the hypothesis that authoritarian political elites employ social welfare benefits as a means to achieve regime legitimacy, which helps to prevent social instability and thus strengthen autocrats’ retention of political power. Compared with democratic systems where the electoral system entitles incumbents to uncontroversial legitimacy, autocracies are, as bloodline and ideology become more frequently questioned and 1 In a strict sense, autocracy is not equivalent to authoritarian regime. Autocracy implies personalization, which in and of itself is a variable instead of a constant in authoritarian systems. Thus, authoritarian regimes include autocracy, but not all authoritarian regimes are autocracies. Nevertheless, this paper uses the two terms interchangeably. 2

Authors: Yu, Bin.
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background image
I.
Introduction:
Despite showing considerable variations in the pattern of the social welfare state,
democratic systems have been identified to be both systematically and positively
correlated with higher levels of social welfare provision, compared with their
authoritarian counterparts. The benevolence of democracies is based on the proposition
that democracies tend to produce more public goods than autocracies
, which has been
theorized and tested by numerous studies (Olson 1993; McGuire and Olson 1996;
Wintrobe 1998; Alesina, Baqir et al. 1999; Lake and Baum 2001). Such studies indicate
that comparative politics have obtained much understanding of the relationship between
the level of public goods provision and regime type. However, variations in the provision
of social welfare benefits in authoritarian regimes, which are mostly treated as a single
category denoting the absence of democracy, are largely insufficiently studied.
Authoritarian regimes, just as democracies, show a considerable degree of variations in
their political institutional design, which unavoidably poses influences on their domestic
policy outputs, one important component of which is social welfare policy. This paper
seeks to explain variations in social welfare provision within the authoritarian settings.
Specifically, it attempts to answer two questions. First, in the absence of an electoral
system, whether authoritarian regimes are incentivized to provide social welfare benefits
to the people at all? Second, does difference in political institutions influence the level of
social welfare provision in autocracies? The analysis results of this study suggest that
while democracies tend to have a larger welfare state, autocracies also have incentives to
be benevolent. Though some scholars (Haggard 1990; Huntington 1968) identify
developmental states as benevolent social welfare maximizers, it is be both theoretically
and empirically important to explain why some autocracies are more benevolent than
others.
I explore the hypothesis that authoritarian political elites employ social welfare
benefits as a means to achieve regime legitimacy, which helps to prevent social instability
and thus strengthen autocrats’ retention of political power. Compared with democratic
systems where the electoral system entitles incumbents to uncontroversial legitimacy,
autocracies are, as bloodline and ideology become more frequently questioned and
1
In a strict sense, autocracy is not equivalent to authoritarian regime. Autocracy implies personalization, which in and
of itself is a variable instead of a constant in authoritarian systems. Thus, authoritarian regimes include autocracy, but
not all authoritarian regimes are autocracies. Nevertheless, this paper uses the two terms interchangeably.
2


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