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Democracy and Economic Growth

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

Is Democracy the best setting for strong economic growth?


That is what the Wall Street Journal asked economists Daron Acemoglu and Ed Glaeser. You can read their debate on this very controversial issue in the WSJ online.


CIPE posted a quick summary of their discussion:


Glaeser: Data does not back up the idea that democracy is a key ingredient in economic growth

Acemoglu: There are different kinds of democracies, what you define as democracy matters.  Further, the relationship between democracies and economic growth differs, depending which view you take (short-term vs. long-term)

Glaeser: Democracies are not necessarily more stable than dictatorships.  More stable, successful democracies invest in human capital - and there is data to back this up.

Acemoglu: Education is important, but if you look around the world today it is evident that education is not necessarily more likely to consolidate democracy.

Glaeser: The link between education and democracy works, because: 1) educated people often lead political uprisings 2) educated people can craft better constitutions 3) educated people stand up and fight for democracy

Acemoglu: Educated countries may be more democratic and prosperous, but it does not mean that they are democratic and prosperous because they are more educated - the fact that they become more educated does not necessarily mean they are more likely to become more democratic.


Related: we reviewed Acemoglus and Robinson's book Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.


In this debate I think that sometimes we tend to forget that Democracy is (or should be) precious by itself. As someone (toppled by the military himself) once said “Freedom doesn’t make humans happy, it simply makes them human”


Submitted by TheJew on
"In this debate I think that sometimes we tend to forget that Democracy is (or should be) precious by itself."

I think that this is a mistaken and indeed dangerous notion. My Glaeser incarnation makes a strong case, one which the incarnation that maintains my blog can elborate on, and in fact has recently.

To summarize my general position, the danger is the conflation of two very different things: rule by majority and liberalism. Liberalism is an extremely absolutist doctrine.

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