Home » General Interest » Evolution of Democracy in Selected Developing Countries by Roger R. Betancourt

Evolution of Democracy in Selected Developing Countries by Roger R. Betancourt

In this posting we look at the scores of four developing countries in three years since the disaggregated components of political rights and civil liberties were made available by Freedom House. The countries selected were Brazil, Chile, Cuba and China. The years selected were the same: 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Country/[Years] A. B. C. D. E. F. G.

Brazil [11,11,11] [14,14,14] [07,07,08] [15,15,15] [10,10,10] [08,08,10] [12,12,12]

Chile [12,12,12] [15,15,15] [12,12,12] [16,16,16] [12,12,12] [15,15,15] [14,15,15]

Cuba [00,00,00] [00,00,00] [01,01,01] [02,02,03] [02,01,01] [01,02,02] [02,03,04]

China [00,00,00] [01,01,01] [01,01,02] [04,03,03] [02,02,03] [02,02,02] [07,07,06]

Note that in terms of per capita income, measured in purchasing power parity (PPP) for 2012, Chile has the highest income per person. It is between $18.2K and $22.4K as measured by three sources (the World Bank, The IMF and the CIA). Again purchasing power parity is supposed to account for price differences across countries obscured by using exchange rates, which reflect only prices of goods and services transacted internationally. China is last with income per person between $ 9.1K and $9.3K measured in the same units. Brazil is in the middle of these two countries with income per person between $11.7 and $12.1K measured in the same units. Not surprisingly Cuba is a special case in terms of GDP data as only one of the three sources provides an estimate (the CIA), which is $10.2K.

This information is consistent with our earlier discussion of the relationship between democracy and development. The country with the lowest level of development in terms of per capita income (China) has at least as high or higher values in all three years in terms of all seven components of both the political rights index and the civil liberties index than the one with the next higher level of per capita income (Cuba). On the other hand, the comparison between Brazil and Chile does suggest a positive association between per capita income and all seven components of the democracy indexes. Perhaps the relationship is non-linear but it will take a few years before we have enough time series data on the components to test this hypothesis in a statistically reliable manner.

With respect to the evolution of democracy per se this information also reveals interesting patterns in developing countries. There is a great deal of stability in the scores attained by these countries for each component in the six years between 2006 and 2012. For instance, during the period between 2006 and 2012 we find no changes over any three year or six year period as follows: in Chile there are no changes in 6 of 7 categories; in Brazil there are no changes in 5 of 7 categories; in Cuba and China there are no changes in three of seven categories. Thus, the earlier statement with respect to the advanced countries also holds for developing ones: The components of democracy evolve slowly in general and especially over short periods of time such as three year intervals.

Just as before we also observe improvements as well as deteriorations in these scores. For Chile and Brazil we only observe improvements: one in category G for Chile and two for Brazil (categories C and F). In Cuba, however, we observe improvements (D and F), deterioration (E) and consecutive improvement (G). For China we observe improvement (C and E) as well as deterioration (D and G). In sum, democracy and its components evolve slowly and non-linearly.

[D. Acemoglu, democracy, economic development, political rights, civil liberties, institutions, J. Robinson, political economy, dictatorship]


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