How does the type of political regime in a country affect the protection of property rights in that same country? In this study, political regime type is defined mainly along the dimension of degree of democracy. There exists no single, coherent theoretical framework that can give precise predictions on the answer to this general question. However, there exist several (par-tial) theories and models drawn from economics and political science that can give indica-tions on some of the mechanisms that might be at work. This study sums up five arguments on the potential effects of political regime type on property rights protection. Two of them relate to the general main research question above, and the three others are more specific in the sense that they try to outline interaction effects, the role of context, or further specify the political regime variable. No conclusive a priori prediction can be made on whether demo-cracies or authoritarian regimes protect property rights better in general, since different ar-guments point in different directions. One type of argument points to the opportunities for the relatively poor masses under democracy to grab and redistribute property from the weal-thy elites, whereas another type of argument points to the threat to property rights emanating from authoritarian rulers and their backers, when these are not checked by alternative power centers, democratic institutions (like elections) and democratically guaranteed civil liberties and political rights for the populace. However, other and more specified predictions can be drawn from theory when we identify nuances for example related to different actors identi-fied and involved, the specific nature of property rights alteration, different specifications of preferences for political elites and differences in socio-economic and political context.
In the empirical part of the thesis, the different hypotheses deduced in the theoretical part are tested. A pooled cross country - panel approach is utilized, and data are collected from sev-eral different sources. Different operationalizations of both political regime type and proper-ty rights protection are used to check the robustness of results. In general, democracy is found to have an overall positive effect on the protection of property rights, and the esti-mated effect is relatively large. This claim is clearly supported when using OLS with Panel Corrected Standard Errors, and is also supported, albeit to a somewhat weaker degree, by Fixed-Effects analysis and Instrumental Variable analysis. When it comes to the IV analysis, I develop a new and very interesting instrument for political regime type, based on Samuel Huntington‟s observation that democratic regimes have come clustered in temporal waves, globally. I also test the more nuanced hypotheses developed in the theoretical section. A few examples of results from the empirical analysis are listed below:
1) The effect from a higher level of democracy on property rights seems to be non-linear, albeit always positive, with a larger effect for already relatively democratic countries. 2) A high degree of income inequality is detrimental to protection of property rights, but only in democracies. 3) Young democracies are worse at protecting property rights than older democracies 4) Parliamentary democracy is estimated to have a positive impact on property rights, when one compares it with presidential democracy. 5) Authoritarian rulers who expect to remain in power for a long time or who expects hereditary succession protects property rights relatively better than other authoritarian rulers. 6) There are large differences in property rights protection among different types of au-thoritarian regimes: Military regimes seem to be the worst and monarchies the best at provid-ing secure property rights. 7) Authoritarian rulers who face an internal security threat, for example a rebel move-ment or militia, protect property less well than those who mainly face an external security threat, for example a neighboring country and its army.