SCOPE OF GOVERNMENT: Evidence


In this section, we present some empirical evidence on the size and scope of government. In particular, we confront some of the predictions from our two models with cross-country data. We start by briefly describing our sample and our classification of political systems. Next, we turn to residuals from cross-country regressions of the size of government and public goods provision onto socio-economic control variables, asking whether these residuals differ systematically across regime types and electoral rules. Finally, we present results from regression analyses, where characteristics of the political system enter among the independent variables explaining government expenditure website.

The sample

The previous models predict how the electoral rule and regime type influence the size and scope of government in democratic countries. As we want to exploit variation with regard to the political system, and at the same time hold various socio-economic variables constant, we deliberately choose a generous definition of democracy so as to increase the sample size. Specifically, we only include countries scoring between 1 and 5, on average, over 1985-90, according to Gastil’s well-known index of political rights. This selection rule produces a sample of 64 countries, depicted by non-white entries on the world map in Figure 5.18 Note that the dating of the democracy information, which is dictated by the availability of government expenditure data, excludes the new democracies in Eastern Europe.

The theoretical model of majoritarian elections assumes plurality rule in singlecandidate districts. We therefore classify all countries electing their legislatures according to those rules as majoritarian. This amounts to a total of 29 countries, indicated by dark shade on the map. The other 35 countries in the sample are classified as proportional, indicated by light shade. We have also devised a more continuous measure, attempting to capture the degree of proportionality (see below). Our primary source for data on the number of candidates per district is Cox (1997).

According to the theory, presidential regimes have two important features. First, there is effective separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. Second, maintenance of proposal powers by specific decision makers does not depend on the support of a majority in the assembly. To discriminate between parliamentary and presidential democracies in our sample, we consider: (i) the degree of authority of a popularly elected president over the cabinet; (ii) the extent to which the survival of the executive and assembly powers are separate. Despite a popularly elected president, a country is classified as parliamentary, if the president has little authority over the cabinet, or if executive survival depends on maintained support from a majority in the legislature throughout the election period. Also, presidential powers to dissolve the legislature weaken separation of powers between the two bodies, and thus contribute to classifying a country as parliamentary.