Authoritarian gridlock

Legislative gridlock is often viewed as a uniquely democratic phenomenon. The institutional checks and balances that produce gridlock are absent from authoritarian systems, leading many observers to romanticize “authoritarian efficiency” and policy dynamism. A unique data set from the Chinese case demonstrates that authoritarian regimes can have trouble passing laws and changing policies—48% of laws are not passed within the period specified in legislative plans, and about 12% of laws take more than 10 years to pass. This article develops a theory that relates variation in legislative outcomes to the absence of division within the ruling coalition and citizen attention shocks. Qualitative analysis of China’s Food Safety Law, coupled with shadow case studies of two other laws, illustrates the plausibility of the theoretical mechanisms. Division and public opinion play decisive roles in authoritarian legislative processes.

That is from Rory Truex, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


...and it's not going to happen. Although it's beautiful, the SF Bay Area is one of the world's most awkward places to build a really big city. Separated by huge expanses of water, the North, East, South, and central city areas are far apart and the engineering that would be required to make a single city of 12 million out of them would cost hundreds of billions. And people who paid 5x the national average price for housing would not support a policy that brought the multiple down to 3x. We are going to have to get used to SF being "special," a royal hunting preserve for high-paid tech workers, the rich retired, and those who serve them.

Clearly, this post is warping reality, and pulling in all sorts of unrelated content.

The truly excellent Kevin Lewis is now writing at MR? - the link is

Food safety only affects peasants. The Communist Parties of the world used to have special farms where high quality food was grown just for them. So it is reasonable to assume they are relatively indifferent to Food Safety laws.

That does not mean they cannot be efficient. It means they do not care. How long would it take them to pass a law making criticism of Xi Jingping illegal?

What the hell is an “authoritarian regime” anyway? All regimes have authority; that’s why they’re regimes. What a meaningless concept.

Dude, let me offer a slight scale -

1. totalitarian (think the Nazis or Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China)

2. authoritarian (what polite people call today's China, or when defending someone like Franco)

3. democracies (think somewhere like Costa Rica)

One hopes that the distinctions between regimes is thus a bit more than a meaningless concept. Though if you wish to think that gulags are a feature of the Costa Rican government, well, this is the MR comment section.

Totalitarian = Super Bad.
Authoritarian = Bad.
Democracy = Not that Bad

Got it. Thanks.

Well, it is amazing that it took a comment on the Internet to provide such basic knowledge concerning something that is not actually a meaningless concept.

Of course, one could suspect you actually already knew that, but this is the MR comment section, so who knows?

I meant that sarcastically. Does it not read sarcastically?

One would think “authoritarian” would be a category that had something to do with authority, but it apparently just means pretty bad government.

By the way, I’ve commisioned a study to see if word that means pretty bad government correlates with word defined as symptom of pretty bad government. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Every organization suffers from gridlock, whether government or business, large or small. Status quo bias certainly contributes, but so does fear, in this case fear of being both a contrarian and wrong. Here is a short essay by Robert Rubin describing the course of study at Harvard that best prepared him for a career in Business and government: Which course of study? Greek philosophy because it taught him the critical thinking skills that are essential to decision-making. It also taught him that proving any proposition to be true is impossible. Rubin: "I concluded that you can’t prove anything in absolute terms, from which I extrapolated that all significant decisions are about probabilities."

Today's NYT has two articles about big business and monopoly, one article arguing that big is bad (gridlock being a trait of every large organization) and calling for stricter enforcement of anti-trust laws and the other arguing that big is beautiful and calling for restraint in the enforcement of anti-trust laws. Both can't be true.;

"What the hell is an “authoritarian regime” anyway? ... What a meaningless concept."

yes, it's a worthless term ... conveying the author's ignorance (and/or posturing).

This age old problem is 'hierarchic bureaucracy' in human organizations everywhere -- it's been formally studied for over a century with endless published analysis and opinion about it.

What is a shadow case study?

Waitaminut, I thought authoritarian regimes were SUPPOSED to be less efficient due to limits on innovation and broken incentives.

While “free” regimes are to be Randian models of inspired productivity and alligned incentives.

Someone seem to be romanticizing authoritarians here

I think your model of the Randian model is a bit off.

I think the Radian's model of the Radian model is quite a bit off.

Accordind to Soviet Civics books, laws were swiftly and unimously passed by the Supreme Soviet. Yet, America supported Red China's aggression against the Soviet Union and Vietnam? Why?

"Accordind to Soviet Civics books ...America supported Red China's aggression against the Soviet Union"

Once again evidence that TR is really an old bitter Russian pretending to be Brazilian. And of course, he's on record as stating that Brazilians speak Spanish, so...

I have read a lot about the Soviet Union. My grandfather was a famous, rabid anticommunist person. Even if less famous and less rabid, I am an anticommunist, too.

Query whether the laws proposed but not passed were ever intended as anything more than some sort of sop toward some international organization or treaty.

I await the effect of public opinion upon the Venezuelan regime.

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