Political dynasties versus development

Jan Frederick P. Cruz and Ronald U Mendoza look at this phenomenon of rising political dynasties. Not just in emerging world but in US as well where Clintons and Bushes dynasties have been at the helm since 1990s:

The possibility of a showdown between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the US Presidential polls may have some political pundits salivating, but perhaps many more Americans wondering. Is political power becoming too concentrated in the US? A Bush or a Clinton was President or Vice President in the US for almost 30 years between 1981 and 2009, a dynastic run that may yet be extended by the 2016 elections.

Elected politicians related by blood or by marriage are considered part of political dynasties, and their relevance to democratisation and economic development applies to both developed and developing democracies. Recent efforts to estimate the share of dynasties in various democratic parliaments indicate that they may range from as low as 6% in the US, to as high as 75% Philippines (Figure 1).

Research shows places where dynasties rule, there is underdevelopment:

Recent research on dynasties in the parliaments of India and the Philippines turn to extensive data on political clans at the local government level, enabling an empirical analysis of the links across dynastic patterns on the one hand, and development indicators on the other.

First, the share of dynasties in the Indian Lok Sahba is around 24%, compared to 75% in the Philippine Congress. When one examines how dynastic incidence at the state level (for India) or provincial level (for the Philippines) is linked to socio-economic indicators, the results seem to confirm a negative correlation between political dynasties and economic development.

The dynastic share at the state level in India is negatively correlated with annualised state-level economic growth. Moreover, in India, the dynastic concentration is smaller in states where citizens are relatively better off and where the socio-economic standing of the average person is rising.

A similar analysis focused on political dynasties in the Philippines’ local government confirms similar patterns. There is also a negative correlation between Philippine provincial real per capita income and dynastic incidence among local government officials.

Hence, in both India and the Philippines the dynastic share indicator is positively correlated with a rising poor population. In other words, dynastic legislators persist in states where there is low human development and a large poor and vulnerable population.

There are various possible explanations here. Rising living standards could weaken patron-client relations that tend to sustain political dynasties. The more economically independent the typical voter is, the less reliant he or she might be to a local patron. Furthermore, rising incomes may also result in a growing middle class, more competitive options for candidates, and more resources that can be tapped for political campaigns by different groups.

In the end, political dynasties in today’s modern and developing democracies are a reminder of how personalities still dominate the political landscape, be it in Washington, DC or in Bombay and Manila. Democracies do not necessarily reflect a level playing field, when certain political clans wield disproportionately large influence and control over public resources. And in the worst cases, all that political power is not wielded to advance development or reduce poverty. They appear, instead, to be linked to underdevelopment and rising inequality, particularly in countries and regions with relatively weaker democratic institutions.

Whoever said that during elections is the only time the vote of the richest citizen is equivalent to that of the poorest needs to start rethinking whether this still holds true in many democracies.

Hmm. Something which has been known for a while. But power of politics is such that if dynasty politics is possible, they will not just be created but all efforts to sustain it shall remain too..

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