While the stability of democracy is dependent on many factors in today’s complex political landscape, it is overtly clear that economic development is the primary factor in ensuring that stability. As presented in “What Makes Democracies Endure?” and “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy”, the statistics overwhelmingly support the argument that a strong, stable economy is vital in maintaining democracy. To be specific, Adam Przeworski et Al. conclude that a country with a per-capita income greater than $6,000 “can be expected to live forever” and that “no democratic system has ever fallen in a country where per-capita income exceeds $6,055.” Understanding that there are very few economies that have achieved this level of success, the authors give a range of statistics that all point towards a successful economy stabilizing democracy. As the per-capita income of a country increases from $1,000 all the way up to the $6,000 range they claim will last forever, the projected lifespan of that democracy more than doubles with each increase.
To reduce economic success to per-capita income leaves out several crucial points in explaining why a strong economy supports the stability of democracy. While Seymour Martin Lipset ultimately concludes that a strong economy alone does not ensure the stabilization of democracy, he does raise several convincing points that contradict his findings. Throughout his paper, he places emphasis on education and electoral competition as two by-products of strong economies that work hand in hand to stabilize democracy. The basic idea of this argument being that with a strong economy, “isolated” jobs such as mining and agriculture are spread out amongst a diverse community, injecting different opinions into the political community keeping those workers away from extremism. Moreover, this diverse political community allows for a “relatively moderate tension among the contending political forces,” something that Lipset argues is a requirement of democracy. It is the strength of the economy that creates this positive domino effect of stronger education and, in turn, a more stable democracy, proving that the strength of the economy is the very foundation of democracy.
The recent failure of Greece’s economy and its subsequent bailout and political turmoil further prove the importance of economic development in a stable democracy. While there was no real threat of a regime change, the scrutiny that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came under when he was forced to go back on his economic promise to Greece’s citizens tore the country and its government apart. After being pushed out of office as the result of this economic downfall, he has left Greece in a helpless state that only the resurgence of the economy can fix.
Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy. By Seymour Martin Lipset.
What Makes Democracies Endure? By Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Antoni Cheibub & Fernando Limongi.