Wednesday, August 03, 2005

*Democracy and Economic Growth*

This is not so much a new post but really an addendum to some earlier posts I have made with regards to debt relief for democratisation whereby I argued that democracy is not so much a noun but a verb or process and that while there is an 'end point' the myraid of end points conceivable means that there are quite a number of alternative paths that one could take based on a few simple premises (kinda like Buddhism really). So it's really all about processes, procedures and institutions that create and advocate transparency and accountability.

Also, I'm too lazy to do a separate post for the stuff below which I sent to the Young Republic. So here it goes...

Given that the many forms of successful governments (democratic or not) have always been premised on this whole notion of accountability whether it be procedural or through some personal ethic intrinsic to upright confucian scholar-government officials, the question really becomes which mode of governance better encourages procedural transparency and accountability.

Thus, examples like the Weimar Republic or even Nepal does not demonstrate Democracy's weakness (in whichever form since the types of functioning democracies run the gumult from Anglo-Saxon style to Scandinavian ones) per se but the weakness of Nascent
Democracies, where the tendancy RIGHT NOW IN REALITY is that rapid democratisation (mostly because it is mishandled) tends to lead to a situation of inflated expectations that are disappointed because of the relative weaknesses of governmental institutions as well as the sort of anti-democratic bureucratic culture (lack of respect for rule of law, corruption, creation of personal fiefdoms) that a reforming government offen butts up against e.g. Nigeria and soon I fear, Lebanon. Of course, making these political and economic problems a lot worse now is the medical epidemic of AIDS which blights entire generations by removing people in their prime.

But given the underlying assumptions that is required of an effective ruling government, a FUNCTIONING democracy is always inevitably better than any other system. Yes there will be tremendous problems getting there sometimes but shouldn't our efforts be towards promulgating it? Beyond a certain point (in terms of education and wealth), we know that democracy is self sustaining and strengthening as is unfortunately more nefarious forms of (non)governance. Actually, if one looks at India, sometimes the culture of democracy becomes so entrenched that regardless of what happens, Democracy survives.

We don't need to start invasions to impose democracies but we sure can support nascent democracies with a mixture of sticks and carrots to bolster their economic position and hence political credentials. The alternative would be to hope that the autocrats and dictators would eventually through historical forces give up their power and make a peaceful transition to a democracy. Even ignoring the fact that civil and political liberties will be diminshed if not crushed during this period, the evidence that such a form of government is necessarily better for the economy hasn't even a strong correlation or much less causative link. Not to mention the fact that without the opportunity for a peaceful change of regime, the chances that the transition will be done through violence increases exponentially.

Anyhow, if anyone is curious, the summary of policy papers (challenge and opposition) at Copenhagen Consensus are a great starting point and are more than able than anything I could conceivably set out in a short post (or come to think about it, maybe even a long one).



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