Department Seminar: The Xerox Effect: Communication Technologies and Political Actions in Autocracy
joint with Marton Fleck (Central European University)
Do new communication technologies promote democratic values in autocratic regimes? To answer this question, we use a unique setting: the distribution of photocopy machines, the Xerox program, between 1985 and 1989 in communist Hungary. Exploiting data on machine allocation combined with newly digitalized data, we show that areas with machines are more likely to support democratic values in the referendum of 1989. These areas are also more likely to participate in elections, vote for democratic values in the first democratic elections, and establish more entrepreneurial activity. Moreover, we show that adjacent areas are also affected by technology adoption. Our results suggest that new communication technologies can help promote democratic values even in countries where political competition is limited and traditional media is censored.