WP74: Legitimating beliefs: Sources and indicators

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Working papers
Levi, Margaret and Audrey Sacks

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.