Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo

Authoritarianism and the elite origins of democracy

Originally published in Public Choice

The book is first and foremost an empirical investigation of the nature and origins of modern democracies. Yet, at the same time, it is a contribution to several strands of literature, both theoretical and empirical. Seen in the context of the public choice tradition, it illustrates the viability of its emblematic approach that advances not only a unified analysis of decision making in market and nonmarket settings, but also a unified analysis of the logic of democratic and nondemocratic governance systems. At its core, the book is a challenge, in the spirit of public choice, to a widespread and naïve perspective on modern democracy. The book questions the conventional wisdom which holds that democracy “is created by and for the people” in a process in which the structure of the democratic system is emerging naturally, fully endowed from its inception with all its liberal and egalitarian features that one associates with the textbook ideal of democratic governance. In fact, argue Albertus and Menaldo, two theses are on the table when it comes to the nature and origins of modern democratic systems, and one thesis is more plausible than the other.

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