Waiting for Napoleon? Historical Democracy and Norms of Cooperation

Devesh Rustagi (Frankfurt and Brown)

Abstract: This paper uses a natural experiment to study the effect of historical experience of democracy on norms of cooperation today. In the Middle Ages, the extinction of the Zaehringen dynasty from the absence of an heir resulted in some Swiss municipalities acquiring historical forms of democracy, but the others continued largely under feudalism until Napoleon intervened. Behavioral and survey measures show that individuals from treated municipalities display stronger norms of cooperation than individuals from control group municipalities. These differences persist due to cultural transmission, as well as economic prosperity, education, and better functioning of democratic institutions in treated municipalities.