Economics
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Growth of Government and Democracy in America, 1790-1860: Theory and History from an Economic Perspective

Jeremy Horpedahl

Major Professor: Richard E. Wagner

Committee Members: Peter J. Boettke, Peter Leeson, Rosemarie Zagarri, History

Enterprise Hall, 318
April 26, 2009, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM

Abstract:

Democracy emerged in the early nineteenth century United States on a very broad scale for the first time in history. This happened despite the fact that most states had strict property-based voting restrictions following the American Revolution. Why did those in power give up some of this power by extending voting rights? How much did government grow after democratization? My research tries to present some answers to these and related questions for the United States during the time period 1790-1860.The first chapter presents a new conceptual framework for understanding expansions of the voting franchise in terms mutually beneficial exchanges and integrates this idea with other theories of democratization. The second chapter examines the growth of state governments in the U.S. between the ratification of the Constitution and the Civil War. The high degree of variability among the states, in terms of both the size and scope of government, is presented as a puzzle based on existing theories of government growth. The third chapter attempts a partial resolution of this puzzle by studying state-level suffrage changes in historical detail, using the conceptual framework developed in the first chapter.

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