Friday, July 3, 2009

Income and Democracy

Recently, I seem to have seen rather frequently the idea that democracy requires an average midlevel of income in a country. Of course, when I started writing this post and looking for evidence supporting that, the details seemed rather vague, and the main source I found for this was Fareed Zakaria.

However, assuming that this concept is somewhat accurate, that democracy generally isn't stable and self-sustaining in a country until GDP per capita hits about $5000 to $6000 a year, this raises a question for me. The real GDP per person back when the United States was founded was far below this, apparently approximately $917. We didn't have what we would consider a full democracy at the time, with only people with a certain amount of property or who paid a certain amount of taxes were able to vote.

This leads me to wonder if, with countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of promoting full democracy, should we instead have put into place a system where only the more well to do are allowed to vote, perhaps at the range that Zakaria mentions?

Of course, by the time all property requirements were dropped in 1850, average GDP was still only $1888, and this seems to disprove the initial assumption. More importantly are the ethical questions around this, as many would find property requirement as bad as requirements based upon race or sex. Still, it does make me wonder about how we are trying to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

1 comment:

  1. It's a hard thing for any Wilsonian liberal to admit, but maybe at this point in time, some countries just aren't ready for Democracy. The sad part is that before the 2003 invasion, Iraq was probably adequately prosperous enough to support a democracy (according to the theory, at least).