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Does democracy produce quality of government?

Nicholas Charron & Victor Lapuente
Publication year: 
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European Journal of Political Research

The paper analyzes the effects of political regimes over state capacity or the quality of government (QoG): do democratic states perform better than authoritarian ones? Previous studies on this puzzle point to a nonlinear relationship between democracy and government quality. We argue that QoG is a function of both forces of supply (leaders which have the power to make reforms) and demand (citizens’ desire for mid-to-long term investments over short term needs), the latter of which is a function of economic development.

There is a general acceptance among scholars and policy-makers on the crucial role of government institutions for the welfare of its citizens. “Good governance”, “state capacity” or “quality of government” foster social and economic development. Dysfunctional and corrupt government institutions play a central role in many of the world’s most pressing economic and social problems (Rothstein and Teorell 2008: 166). While the socio-economic consequences of what, for the sake of simplicity, this paper calls “quality of government” (QoG) are well understood, its causes remain unclear and subject to controversy. An intriguing unsolved debate is the one regarding the impact of political regimes on QoG. Put simply, do democratic states work better than authoritarian ones?