UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What causes a cabinet to change its mind? the British farmer and the state 1818-2004 Peplow, Stephen


The two centuries from 1818 to 2004 cover profound social and economic changes in what was, for much of the period, the most powerful country in the world. Britain led the way in moving capital and labour out of agriculture and into newer industries, such as coal-mining, textiles and transportation. The changes were accompanied by deep institutional changes, especially in the franchise. The rate of change is remarkable: within seventy years Britain was almost completely democratic, in contrast to the 'rotten boroughs' and virtual feudalism of the pre- 1832 unreformed Parliaments. The changes are mirrored in the role given to agriculture within society, and in particular the amount and type of economic rent transferred from the consumer and the taxpayer to the farmer. This thesis uses two centuries of data and 'survival analysis' statistical techniques to show that Olson's celebrated theory of collective action can be substantiated in a dynamic context. I show that as the share of farmers in the workforce diminishes, and their relative wealth shrinks, the probability of the Cabinet increasing protection grows. The reverse is also the case, showing that the Cabinet responds positively to pressures from a group whose utility was diminishing.

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