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Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State: France and Great Britain 1688-1789

David Stasavage|
Cambridge University Press (April 2003)

Does establishing representative democracy increase commitment to repaying public debt? This book develops a new theory about the link between debt and democracy and applies it to a classic historical comparison: eighteenth century Great Britain (which had strong representative institutions and sound public finance) vs. ancien regime France (which had neither).

The book argues that whether representative institutions improve commitment depends on the opportunities for government creditors to form coalitions with other groups. This is more likely to occur when a society is divided across multiple political cleavages. It then presents historical evidence to show that improved access to finance in Great Britain after 1688 had as much to do with the development of the Whig Party as with constitutional changes. In France, it is suggested that the balance of partisan forces made it unlikely that an early adoption of 'English-style' institutions would have improved credibility.

This publication is relevant to developing country governments with implications for government policy where credibility is concerned. 

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For more information, contact Jessica Winterstein, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7060 or email j.winterstein@lse.ac.uk| 

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