How democracy affects the quality of life of citizens


How democracy affects the quality of life of citizens

The period after the Second world war brought the history of the world a new phenomenon – a large number of poor democracies that emerged including former colonies. There are about 70 countries, the regimes which have democratic attributes, and its GDP is below $5 000 per capita.

The struggle between democracy and totalitarianism (or autocracy) is only at first glance seems political. In fact, the warring parties try to solve important economic issues:

is there a connection between governance and poverty;
what mode is able fairer to allocate public resources;
what comes first, the political regime or the level of economic development;
is it always democratic form of government ensures effective management and a high level of life of citizens.
What kind of democracy is called poor.

Poor democracies are called countries with low per capita GDP and level of development of civil institutions. The citizens of these countries have a wide range of civil rights and political freedoms. Opposition parties participate in political and civic activities. The results of the election reflect the opinion of the majority.

These attributes distinguish democratic countries from authoritarian regimes (Burma, China, Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Vietnam) and pseudo-democracies.

Pseudo-democracies possess autocratic attributes of government, suppression of civil activity, state censorship, restriction of opposition activities. Such countries include, for example, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kazakhstan, or Malaysia.

From an economic point of view, the range of poor democracies is very wide. Their level of GDP per capita can range from $1 660 and below in Nigeria, Bangladesh or India, to $10 400 in Argentina and $26 152 in South Korea.

In Russia, the GDP per capita in 2017 is $8 450. For comparison, in Italy GDP per capita last year was $34 877, US – $35 243, France – $42 567, Luxembourg – $107 708.


Many believe that a stable democracy is a luxury that can afford only the rich countries, the icing on the cake five-digit GDP per capita. But the correlation between the GDP and the development of democratic institutions were never perfect. Suffice it to recall the India, English-speaking countries of the Caribbean Islands, Venezuela, who had democratic regimes for decades.

Almost all countries in Central and South America was ruled by democratically elected governments in between military dictatorships. In the 80-ies, in some poor countries such as El Salvador began to develop democratic institutions, successfully lived up to our days. However protodemocratic regimes that emerged in developing countries after the war, had mixed influence of the opposing camps of the cold war. For several years, many of them turned into a left or right dictatorship, often leading a civil war against numerous rebel groups.

There are countries where democracy has not brought economic improvement. At the same time, the number of countries with an autocratic regime like China, South Korea, Chile, demonstrated a high rate of economic growth. This gave reason to doubt the necessity of democracy for successful economic development.

The arguments of the defenders of democracy can be divided into two groups: an indication of the features of the new democracies and to the short duration of the observation period.

Particularly poor democracies

1. General elections in a poor country often lead to power of the dictator, a populist, promising quick and simple solutions. Regardless of the country, these decisions usually boil down to the need to destroy external or internal enemy, to confiscate the property of the more wealthy population groups to seize the territory of a neighbor. None of these solutions contributes to the rapid economic development.

2. In poor democracies, there is no separation between political and economic power. In Western Europe, this separation occurred within a few centuries and has become a reliable barrier built by society to abuse and lawlessness. In most poor democracies, political power is quickly transformirovalsya in economic control, and Vice versa, providing political figures at any level unseen for the majority of economic benefits.

3. The lack of separation of political and economic power leads to high level of corruption, which affects all poor democracy. In countries where democracy has come “overnight”, the state property became an easy prey for democratically elected politicians and bureaucrats.

The short duration of observations

Rich and poor democracy came to democratic institutions in different ways and different times. In Western Europe, civil institutions developed gradually since the middle Ages. For centuries formed a system of mutual obligations and rights of different social groups, taking the form of laws and moral imperatives.

In poor democracies, there is no corresponding political culture. Neither in the colonies nor in the former Communist countries did not exist civil institutions capable of implementing democratic procedures. In these countries democracy is beginning to develop without the Democrats. The destruction of totalitarianism has occurred at the national rather than local level, ideologically without affecting the majority of the population, accustomed to live by different rules.

In the long run none of totalitarian or autocratic regimes did not achieve stable economic growth. South Korea began to develop only after the fall of the dictatorship. China, despite the impressive success, is experiencing obvious problems with the elimination of poverty and maintaining the previous level of economic development. The political regime of Singapore is becoming more liberal.


Despite the development problems of the poor democracies seem to be no other way but the further development of civil institutions of governance and liberalization. Experience shows that neither autocracy or pseudo-democracy could not provide effective sustainable development. Becoming more and more obvious that the usual estimate of GDP does not adequately reflect the nature of contemporary development. To evaluate you need to consider the level of satisfaction of citizens with their lives.

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