, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 1-27

Democracy and growth

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Abstract

Growth and democracy (subjective indexes of political freedom) are analyzed for a panel of about 100 countries from 1960 to 1990. The favorable effects on growth include maintenance of the rule of law, free markets, small government consumption, and high human capital. Once these kinds of variables and the initial level of real per capita GDP are held constant, the overall effect of democracy on growth is weakly negative. There is a suggestion of a nonlinear relationship in which more democracy enhances growth at low levels of political freedom but depresses growth when a moderate level of freedom has already been attained. Improvements in the standard of living—measured by GDP, health status, and education—substantially raise the probability that political freedoms will grow. These results allow for predictions about which countries will become more or less democratic over time.