Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson, Media,
Development, and Institutional Change
Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2009
Nicholas Adam Curott
Published online: 30 April 2010
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Television viewers in Venezuela are accustomed to having their programming
interrupted by Hugo Chávez, who regularly broadcasts whatever he feels like on
every channel in the nation.
To the American visitor, this seems like just one of
the many disadvantageous consequences of living under a dictatorship. Converse-
ly, the idea that media propaganda propagates dictatorial regimes has been
cemented in the popular mind ever since the publication of George Orwell’s 1984.
Whichever way one looks at it, media and dictatorship are clearly linked. But is an
unfree media a cause of unfree political institutions, or is it a consequence? In the
latest entry in the New Thinking in Political Economy book series published by
Edward Elgar Press, Christopher J. Coyne and Peter T. Leeson argue convincingly
that the arrow of causation in fact runs both ways. According to Coyne and
Leeson, the media regularly works to reinforce existing institutions, but it is also a
powerful focal point around which individuals implement institutional change. In
just over 170 type-set pages, Coyne and Leeson attempt the difficult task of
unraveling the complex circular relationship between media, development, and
Media, Development, and Institutional Change is substantively about the
relationship between the media and economic development. But in the course of
pursuing this issue, Coyne and Leeson also present the clearest exposition yet in
Rev Austrian Econ (2010) 23:419–423
Everyone who wants to watch TV is literally forced to listen to whatever Chávez wants to say.
Frequently, he talks about the benefits of Marxism. The likelihood that this sort of talk is believed by
anyone is one of the subjects discussed by Coyne and Leeson in Chapter 3. Other times, he talks about
whatever is on his mind, for instance his infamous diatribe about his own bowel movements.
N. A. Curott (*)
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA