Economy (political)

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A Non-Tariff Protectionist Bias in Majoritarian Politics: Government Subsidies and Electoral Institutions1 Stephanie J. Rickard London School of Economics Governments elected by majoritarian rules are, according to conventional wisdom, more protectionist than governments elected by proportional rules. However, existing tests of this claim examine only one possible form of trade protection: tariffs. This leaves open the possibility that governments in majoritarian systems provide no more protection than governments in proportional systems but simply use tariffs more often than other forms of trade protection. Does the protectionist bias in majoritarian politics extend beyond tariffs? The current study addresses this question by examining an increasingly important form of trade protection: subsidies. In a sample of 68 countries from 1990 to 2006, spending on subsidies is found to be higher in majoritarian systems than in proportional systems, holding all else equal. The implication is that the protectionist bias in majoritarian systems does in fact extend beyond tariffs. The economic crisis that began in 2008 prompted fears that governments would turn to trade protection.2 While these fears appear to have been largely unwarranted, modest moves toward protection did occur. Governments generally did not, however, raise tariffs. Instead, they tended to use non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to shelter their domestic markets. Subsidies, for example, increased in many countries from mid-2008 (OECD 2010). Governments’ use of subsidies in response to the ‘‘great recession’’ serves as a reminder that tariffs are just one means by which governments can protect domestic markets. Trade protection is possible through a wide variety of policies, including subsidies, countervailing duties, and voluntary export restraints. The fact that tariffs are just one of many possible forms of trade protection raises an important question about the apparent ‘‘protectionist bias’’ in majoritarian…

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