Do the Poor Count?

Do the Poor Count?: Democratic Institutions and Accountability in a Context of Poverty

Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v54p
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  • Book Info
    Do the Poor Count?
    Book Description:

    Latin America’s flirtation with neoliberal economic restructuring in the 1980s and 1990s (the so-called Washington Consensus strategy) had the effect of increasing income inequality throughout the region. The aim of this economic policy was in part to create the conditions for stable democracy by ensuring efficient economic use of resources, both human and capital, but the widening gap between rich and poor threatened to undermine political stability. At the heart of the dilemma faced by these new democracies is the question of accountability: Are all citizens equally capable of holding the government accountable if it does not represent their interests? In this book, Michelle Taylor-Robinson investigates both the formal institutions of democracy (such as electoral rules and the design of the legislative and executive branches) and informal institutions (such as the nomination procedures of political parties and patron-client relationships) to see what incentives legislators have to pay attention to the needs of poor people and thereby adequately represent their interests.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05530-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. ONE INSTITUTIONS, POVERTY, AND DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION
    (pp. 1-26)

    Do the poor count in Latin American politics? As voters, of course poor people count in democratic regimes. Winning poor people’s votes can be essential to win elections. But do poor people count after the election—do the officials they helped to elect in fact represent them? This book explores whether, when, and how poor people count. It examines how the limited ability of poor people to monitor government officials, combined with how institutions can constrain the capacity of poor people to sanction, affect legislators’ incentives to represent poor people.

    Poor people make up a large percentage of the population...

  7. TWO THEORIZING REPRESENTATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN A CONTEXT OF POVERTY
    (pp. 27-52)

    Principal-agent relationships are often used to study mechanisms of accountability in democratic systems, with citizens as the principal and the elected official as the agent.¹ Elegant in their simplicity, principal-agent models define boundaries and limiting conditions, such as the optimal payment to the agent (Barro 1973), and the level of monitoring that will motivate the agent to seek reelection and also produce the policy and services the principal desires (Ferejohn 1986). Scholars also ask whether elections are a selection game to choose a “good type” who will represent the voter’s interests when making policy (Fearon 1999), or a moral hazard...

  8. THREE INSTITUTIONS AND POOR PEOPLE’S CONFIDENCE IN THEIR LEGISLATURE
    (pp. 53-74)

    King, Keohane, and Verba (1994) urge researchers to find multiple observable implications of theory. For the role of institutions in a context of poverty, a variety of macro and micro observable implications exist. This chapter presents the first of several observable implications of when poor people count in Latin American countries by using cross-national data about poor people’s confidence in their legislatures.

    The theory presented in this book has two aims: One aim is to explore how combinations of institutions affect the ability of different segments of society to sanction elected officials. A second aim is to explore how combinations...

  9. FOUR EVOLUTION OF INSTITUTIONS: AN OVERVIEW OF HONDURAS’S POLITICAL HISTORY
    (pp. 75-110)

    This chapter has a dual purpose: to trace the development that led to Honduras’s current democratic institutions, and to dispel myths. Outlining the country’s history demonstrates how political parties and clientelism are major themes of Honduran politics, rather than the violence that has characterized its better-known neighbors, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. It also reveals the path-dependent development of the country’s current democratic institutions. Chapter 5 explains how these institutions operate in the current democratic regime.

    Honduras is different from its neighbors in several ways that are key to understanding the present democratic regime and the consolidation challenges it faces....

  10. FIVE INSTITUTIONS AND INCENTIVES IN HONDURAS’S THIRD-WAVE DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 111-126)

    Many democracies have formal institutions like those found in Honduras, but how they function in Honduras is influenced by the country’s history and the informal institutions that the Liberal and National parties brought into the new regime. Institutions need to be analyzed in concert, incorporating their path-dependent development, because the combination of institutions creates the institutional milieu shaping the capacity of poor and rich Hondurans to sanction their officials, and creating incentives that influence members of Congress about how to do their job and whom to represent.

    Macro-level observable implications of the theory presented in chapter 2 concern the incentives...

  11. SIX INSTITUTIONS, INCENTIVES, AND ROLES: LEGISLATORS’ IDENTITIES ABOUT THEIR JOB
    (pp. 127-148)

    Institutions constrain the strategies legislators adopt to achieve career goals, and they also shape legislators’ identities about their job. The institutional milieu of a country’s politics should draw certain types of people into politics. Katznelson and Weingast (2005, 10) argue that “individuals often have preferences by virtue of being in an institutional and political environment with determinate characteristics. … Indeed, members without these preferences soon would cease to be members.” Institutions constrain Honduran deputies, but there is still room for choice about how they will do their job, and legislators are unlikely to be a homogeneous group.¹ Roles or identities...

  12. SEVEN ROLES, ATTITUDES, AND ACTIONS: DOES ANYONE REPRESENT POOR PEOPLE?
    (pp. 149-170)

    This chapter continues the examination of micro-level observable implications of the theory of incentives to represent poor people. Chapter 6 presented the three informal preference roles found in the Honduran Congress, and assessed which deputies have an incentive to represent poor people given the identity and preferences that led them to adopt their role, the capacity of poor people to monitor and sanction, and the constraints that institutions place on deputies. Here I examine whether deputies who adopt different roles behave differently, particularly with respect to poor constituents. Do they have different perspectives about whom they represent and how they...

  13. EIGHT DO THE POOR COUNT IN LATIN AMERICAN DEMOCRACIES?
    (pp. 171-198)

    This book explores whether, when, and how representation and accountability exist in a context of poverty. It asks, do the poor count in Latin American politics? … or was O’Donnell (1992) correct to worry that poor people would once again be ignored? These are important questions for democratic consolidation because in most Latin American countries poor people make up a large part of the population. It is hard to imagine that democratic regimes can deepen if a large sector of society does not receive representation because it lacks the capacity to hold elected officials accountable. Yet poor people in some...

  14. Appendix: CODING INFORMAL ROLES
    (pp. 199-204)
  15. References
    (pp. 205-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-234)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)