According to “What Makes Democracies Endure?” the best way to ensure a democracy in the future is to have democracy in the present. The authors go on to use statistical evidence to dispel rumors that non-democratic regimes tended to give way to democracy. In fact, “not a single transition to democracy can be predicted by the level of development alone” (Przeworski, Alvarez, Cheibub, & Limongi, 1996). However, affluence can be used as an indicator of the likelihood that a democracy will fail: the smaller the annual per-capita income, the more likely the democracy will fall in any given year. Regimes are more stable when they have noticeable (more than 5%) economic growth and moderate (6-30% per year) inflation. Democracies are more stable when they have declining income inequality, but there is no apparent relationship between stability and income inequality itself, only its change over time.
Essentially, people who have more to lose economically are less likely to be interested in overthrowing the current regime (democracy or dictatorship) and they will be more likely to put up with a frustrating political situation (a deadlocked democracy or a cruel, corrupt dictatorship) in order to try to keep their financial earnings. People living in poverty with very little capital at risk, however, are more likely to try to overthrow the current regime in order to try to get themselves a better future through whatever alternative regime they have in mind.
Paul Krugman’s New York Times opinion article, “Francs, Fear and Folly” discusses how Switzerland, a traditionally quite stable country, may undergo a regime change. Mid-January, the Swiss National Bank ended a policy put in place three years prior to prevent deflation. “A democratic regime has a 0.023 chance of dying and an expected life of 44 years when the annual inflation rate is under 6 percent,” so it is entirely reasonable for Krugman to question the stability of an otherwise successful regime facing negative inflation (Przeworski et al., 1996). This example reinforces the idea that moderate inflation is important for a successful regime. While no change of regime has happened yet in Switzerland, the economic instability that deflation has led to may hint at deflation’s effects on less stable regimes in the near future.