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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Veto Players in Authoritarian States 

Matthew Yglesias (I sure do link to his site a lot) suggests in a post today that authoritarian states can sometimes respond better when good policy goes bad because there are fewer "veto players", or institutional obstacles, to complicate turning the ship of state.

Actually, though, the canonical work on veto players, George Tsebelis's Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work, disagrees on this point:
[I]t is not true that non-democratic systems have necessarily a single veto player. While the decisionmaking process in democratic systems is usually more transparent to outside observers (like journalists or political scientists) who have a good idea of how policy decisions are made, this is not the case in non-democratic regimes. However, transparency does not necessarily mean multiple veto players, and lack of it does not imply a single one. Karen Remmer (1989) has made a forceful argument that different authoritarian regimes in Latin America have very different structures and in some of them, one individual is responsible for political decisions, while in others many players are endowed with the power to veto decisions. I claim that the situation is not unlike decisionmaking inside political parties in democracies....

[W]hether the veto players are decided by competition between elites for votes or by some other process, distinguishes democratic from non-democratic regimes, but there is no necessary distinction in terms of representation or in terms of the actual number of veto players. One has to study the specific regime in order to make decisions on these matters.
The book is well worth reading if your tastes run to rigorous analysis of political structures. You can buy it here (or for some reason download it in its entirety here, but you probably shouldn't.)

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