08 June 2009

Democracy May Support Stability and Sustainability

Interested in building healthy, sustainable communities? Consider the value of democratic governance. Democracy may not be perfect, but perhaps it's the best imperfect system of government available.

New research supports this conventional wisdom in a study of 45 African countries and 18 Latin American states over the time period 1996–2004. "While controlling for the material wealth of a country, education, population, armed conflict, ethnic tension, and debt, this pooled timed series analysis points to a strong positive correlation between democracy and good governance practices," according to Daniel Stockemer, a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.

Stockemer begins by outlining the key ingredients of good governance as described in the scholarly literature: "Under the doctrine of good governance, states are obliged to perform their functions efficiently; to value non-corruptibility, to be responsive to civil society and to guarantee stability. Governments must also be transparent in the allocation of services and equitable in the distribution of goods." This kind of governance - based on the rule of law - promotes stable legal institutions and is a foundation for sustainable development. Accordingly, the study used four measures of good governance, based on World Bank Good Governance Indicators– (1) political stability and absence of violence, (2) government effectiveness, (3) control of corruption and (4) regulatory qualities.

Applying systematic analysis and empirical research methods, he sought to evaluate the relationship between democracy and good governance for Africa and Latin America, focusing on two questions: (1) Are those African and Latin American countries that are democratically ruled better governed than states that are authoritarian? (2) Does a state’s move toward more democracy immediately trigger better governance performance?

He found affirmative answers to both questions. More democratic states had better governance. And as states became more democratic, their governance practices also improved (though more so for Africa than Latin America).

Stockemer concludes that "democracy is both a normative good and a form of government that leads to better governance, which in turn should trigger enhanced development in the form of high growth rates and advancement of living standards of the majority of the population."

ResearchBlogging.orgStockemer, D. (2009). Does democracy lead to good governance? The question applied to Africa and Latin America Global Change, Peace & Security, 21 (2), 241-255 DOI: 10.1080/14781150902872141