This book develops new theory about the link between debt and democracy and applies it to a classic historical comparison: Great Britain in the eighteenth century which had strong representative institutions and sound public finance vs. ancient regime France, which had neither. The book argues that whether representative institutions improve commitment depends on the opportunities for government creditors to form new coalitions with other social groups, more likely to occur when a society is divided across multiple political cleavages. It then presents historical evidence to show that improved access to finance in Great Britain after 1688 had as much to do with the development of the Whig Party as with constitutional changes. In France, it is suggested that the balance of partisan forces made it unlikely that an early adoption of 'English-style' institutions would have improved credibility.

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