Self-destructive institutions

By Jurre Honkoop

After the battle of the parliamentary system in the Netherlands 1866-1868 census suffrage became standard. Liberals were known to have the most assets and thus became the dominant player in Dutch politics. I will set out to explain how the liberals lost this dominant position using a power-distributional perspective.

When the liberals gained their dominant position they set out to implement liberal policies. With the renewed freedoms, minorities could emancipate more into society and could start participating in politics through this emancipation and enhanced wealth. As Thelen (2004) states, dominant actors will want to continue their dominance; however, they rely on active mobilization of political support. Shifts in the balance of power can then be an important driver of change. Whereas the liberals did a good job in pushing through their desired policy, in the policy-making process they created an organized opposition. The balance of power then shifted in favor of the opposition. Resource allocations from one set of institutions can largely influence resource allocations in others. In this case the shift in the societal emancipation then seeped through into other sets of institutions such as the electoral system and the educational system. Confessional parties for example set out to get funding for religious schools and managed to get their way through coalition forming. Furthermore eventually the non-liberals managed to transform the electoral system even more in their favor.

The liberal party by implementing a set of liberal policies thus created an opportunity for minorities to participate in politics. The liberals could not find enough political support against their new political opposition to stay the dominant actor. Resource allocations in the one system seeped through into other institutional systems and further deteriorated the dominant position.