International Organization


Trade and the variety of democratic institutions

Ronald Rogowskia1

a1 Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Students of comparative politics have long acknowledged the importance of such institutional factors as electoral systems, parliamentary versus presidential rule, and the strength of parties; but they have either regarded the institutions as given or have explained them entirely in domestic terms (associating proportional representation, for example, with the intensity of social cleavages). In economically advanced democracies, however, these institutional aspects can be plausibly linked to dependence on trade: proportional representation, the parliamentary system, strong parties, and large electoral districts have “survival value” for developed democracies exposed to trade. That the recently revived agitation for proportional representation in the United Kingdom has been cast explicitly in terms of economic necessity and dependence on trade adds force to this argument, and suggests the need for further historical research on other cases of institutional adaptation and change.