The value of democracy in the world’s poorest region: Evidence from Kenya’s road building
Ameet Morjaria 05 February 2014
Ethnic favouritism is a longstanding problem in Africa. This column presents new evidence of this phenomenon and how democracy affects it. Data on road building in Kenya confirms strong ethnic favouritism that disappears during periods of democracy.
An enormous literature points to a diverse set of factors behind Africa’s growth tragedy, ranging from bad policies, poor education, and poor infrastructure, to aging leaders, the historic slave trade, and political instability. Historians, political scientists, and economists have all argued that ethnic favouritism – a situation where coethnics benefit from patronage and public policy decisions – has hampered the economic performance of many African countries.
Development Institutions and economics Politics and economics
democracy, Africa, autocracy, ethnic inequality, public finance
Mark Harrison 15 January 2014
Democracy often seems bureaucratic with high ‘transaction costs’, while autocracies seem to get things done at lower cost. This column discusses historical research that refutes this. It finds empirical support from Soviet archives for a political security/usability tradeoff. Regimes that are secure from public scrutiny tend to be more costly to operate.
From public finance to climate change, democracy looks to be in trouble. In many Western countries, political decisions are gridlocked while economic, social, and environmental imbalances accumulate. Our leaders juggle public opinion, private lobbies, and expert advice while trying to live within past promises and present legal obligations. The costs of reaching decisions are often high and sometimes prohibitive, leading us into democracy’s ‘do nothing zone’, where bargaining fails and the outcome is procrastination (Wintrobe 2000: 247-279).
Economic history Politics and economics
democracy, dictatorship, Soviet Union, autocracy, transaction costs, secrecy
Democracy in Africa
Thorvaldur Gylfason 17 November 2013
Based on statistical measures of different degrees of democracy vs. autocracy, this article briefly reviews the progress of democracy around the world during the past 212 years, and places democratic developments in Africa since 1960 in that context. Democracy is positively associated with education, which in turn is associated with lower fertility and greater longevity. Democracy is also associated with reduced corruption. Together, these effects suggest democracy should be good for growth – a hypothesis that is borne out by the data.
A man’s admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.
― Alexis de Tocqueville
Until the second half of the 19th century, there were so few democratic states around the world that they could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Development Economic history Politics and economics
education, democracy, growth, Africa, Corruption, fertility, life expectancy, autocracy, anocracy
Oil and democracy: New insights
Francesco Caselli, Andrea Tesei 22 December 2011
Oil and other natural resources can be both a blessing and a curse. Incomes may rise, but the politics can soon turn nasty. This column looks at a large panel of countries and finds that this isn’t always the case. Discovering natural resources has no effect on the political system – if the country is already a democracy.
Looking at the historical experiences of many countries it seems uncontroversial that an abundance of natural resources can shape political outcomes. Few observers of Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and many other resource-rich countries would take seriously the proposition that political developments in these countries can be understood without reference – indeed without attributing a central role -- to these countries' natural wealth.
Energy Politics and economics
democracy, oil, natural resources, autocracy