DP13930 The Political Economy of the Prussian Three-class Franchise

Author(s): Sascha O. Becker, Erik Hornung
Publication Date: August 2019
Keyword(s): Elites, inequality, political economy, Prussia, Three-class Franchise
JEL(s): D72, N43, N93, P26
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13930

Did the Prussian three-class franchise, which politically over-represented the economic elite, affect policy-making? Combining MP-level political orientation, derived from all roll call votes in the Prussian parliament (1867â??1903), with constituency characteristics, we analyze how local vote inequality, determined by tax payments, affected policy-making during Prussia's period of rapid industrialization. Contrary to the predominant view that the franchise system produced a conservative parliament, higher vote inequality is associated with more liberal voting, especially in regions with large-scale industry. We argue that industrialists preferred self-serving liberal policies and were able to coordinate on suitable MPs when vote inequality was high.