Link courtesy of Patrick Sullivan.
Over time, intricate political institutions developed, which not only ensured peaceful transfers of power but also restricted the power of the executive and created a climate conducive to business. Because Venice had no land and no natural resources, there was no point in setting up extractive feudal institutions, which were pervasive in Europe at that time. Instead, its institutions emerged to protect commerce, rather than extract resources—although evidence suggests that the capture of the government by the merchants later contributed to the economic stagnation of the city-state.
Can protests cause political change, or are they merely symptoms of underlying shifts in policy preferences? We address this question by studying the Tea Party movement in the United States, which rose to prominence through coordinated rallies across the country on Tax Day, April 15, 2009. We exploit variation in rainfall on the day of these rallies as an exogenous source of variation in attendance. We show that good weather at this initial, coordinating event had signiﬁcant consequences for the subsequent local strength of the movement, increased public support for Tea Party positions, and led to more Republican votes in the 2010 midterm elections. Policymaking was also affected, as incumbents responded to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress. Our estimates suggest signiﬁcant multiplier effects: an additional protester increased the number of Republican votes by a factor well above one. Together our results show that protests can build political movements that ultimately affect policymaking, and that these effects arise from inﬂuencing political views rather than solely through the revelation of existing political preferences.
"New technology has given us the chance to re-examine how the Civil War battle was won and lost."