May Weberian Bureaucracies Be Instruments of Change in Non-democratic Regimes? the Case of the 18th Century French ‘bureau Du Commerce’

Eric Brousseau (Université Paris-Dauphine — PSL)
Antoine Cazals (Université Paris-Dauphine — PSL)
Mohammad Habibpour (Université Paris-Dauphine — PSL)
Jérome Sgard (Sciences-Po Paris)

Abstract : This article explores the decision-making process of a small French agency that was in charge of the regulation of the supply side of the proto-industrial part of the economy in the 18th century France, characterized by absolutist monarchy. The question we ask, is whether, against the odds, its rules and procedures endowed the Bureau du Commerce with a capacity to act as an agent of change, or whether its de jure constitution was de facto overwhelmed by the pressure of a thoroughly rent-seeking environment. We analyze the case of the distribution of privileges, i.e. individual franchises and rents, to private entrepreneurs. Policy implementation responded to a bottom-up process whereby each applicant sent his demand to the Bureau in Paris, which then investigated the case and decided whether or not to support him. Thanks to well-kept archives, we have been able to code the 535 individual applications that were received and processed between 1700 and 1791. We identified the conclusions reached, the parties and experts involved in each case, and the qualitative arguments leveraged by each of them. We show that decisions issued by the Bureau are correlated to the positions expressed by the key voices in the deliberation process (for or against each submission) and by the substantive arguments that they raised within the procedure. Broad or impersonal criteria that shaped the distribution of rents to private manufacturers can thus be observed ex post. The fact that they remain stable for a long period characterized by multiple rulers and substantial political changes suggests that the mix of hierarchic division of labor, information gathering, and collegial deliberation actually supported a rather consistent and impersonal development policy despite the absolutist monarchy that ruled at that time.

Redistributive Consequences of Competitive Authoritarianism: Evidence from the Turkish Housing Administration

Ethan Caspi (University of Southern California)
Christopher Dann (University of Oxford)
Lutfi Sun (Trinity University)
Andre Zeromski (Washington and Lee University)
Yihan Zhu (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Abstract : Although a large literature exists in political science on the nature of hybrid regimes, few studies explore their direct redistributive consequences. As such, we investigate how the rise of Turkey’s competitive authoritarian regime, via the incumbency of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2014, has led to the selective distribution of public housing project contracts, as administered by the state-run Turkish Mass Housing Development Administration (TOKİ). Firstly, with the incumbency of Erdoğan, we find robust evidence that provinces voting in favour of his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti or AKP) receive more TOKİ contracts, whilst those with larger vote share differentials between the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition party, and the AKP receive fewer. However, before Erdoğan’s arrival, we also find that the vote shares of either party remain strongly uncorrelated with TOKİ redistribution. Consequently, by exploiting the institutional shift of the political landscape between 2003 2018, we provide suggestive evidence that the rise of competitive authoritarianism via Erdogan has transformed TOKİ from a once neutral public good to one of pure political graft.

Crackdowns in Hierarchies: Evidence from China's Environmental Inspections

Valerie Karplus (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Mandy Wu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Abstract : We evaluate the effect of the central government's rotating crackdowns (2016-2017) on the environmental performance of cities and firms in response to China's air pollution crisis. During one-month crackdowns, concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) at coal power plants in targeted cities fall on average by 25-27%, but increase once scrutiny ends. Pollution reverts earlier at state-owned plants accountable to the central government, compared to plants accountable to the local (city) government. Our findings suggest that crackdowns visibly demonstrated central government effort but did not result in lasting environmental improvement.