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Working paper

WP74: Legitimating beliefs: Sources and indicators

Margaret Levi and Audrey Sacks 1 Nov 2007 Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia
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This paper examines the conditions that promote popular legitimating beliefs that provide support for governments that are attempting to serve their entire populations competently and in a manner that is relatively impartial and equitable. Legitimacy as a feature of government reduces the transaction costs of governing by reducing reliance on coercion and monitoring. Here we explore the relationship between the existence of a relatively effective government, particularly one that is considered fair, and attitudes that indicate quasi-voluntary compliance, our indicator of the existence of legitimating beliefs. We posit that where such a relationship exists, there is the potential for the development of a virtuous circle. The more effective and fair the government, the greater the degree of quasi-voluntary compliance, which then improves government’s capacity to become more effective, which in turn increases quasi-voluntary compliance.

Margaret Levi

Margaret Levi is Jere L. Bacharach Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science at the University of Washington.

Audrey Sacks

Audrey Sacks is an Extended Term Consultant, PREM, Africa Region.