The Effects of Democracy

Written by autumn glenister
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The Effects of Democracy
Democracy has both positive and negative effects. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Democracy is the political system used in the United States, but people in other parts of the world do not have as much freedom of choice when it comes to who leads them. Democracy is the fairer system, it has been argued, as the population gets a say in how its country is run, rather than a minority elite making all the choices. However, the effects of democracy are not as clear cut, and knowing what happens to a nation when it becomes a democracy can help you understand the development of other countries in the world.


A 2004 essay showed democracy improves the health of the population. "The Effect of Democracy on Health: Ecological Study" was led by Professor Alvaro Franco of the University of Alicante and published in the "British Medical Journal." The study of 170 countries concluded that the health of people in democracies was better than that in countries with less political freedom. Health was measured by infant and maternal mortality and life expectancy. The investigation found that democracy had a more significant effect on health than did gross domestic product.


It has been argued both that democracy improves a country's economic performance but also that growth is stifled by democracy. A 2002 essay entitled "Democracy's Effect on Economic Growth: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis, 1951-1980" found that democracy appears to have a marginally positive impact on investment, which feeds into economic growth. However, in some countries, democracy was found to produce increased social unrest. The probability of unrest was found to be dependent on how democratic or free a country was. At low levels of democracy, social unrest was found to have a significantly negative effect on economic growth. Additionally, democracy was seen having a negative effect on government spending, which has a positive effect on economic growth. Jonathan Krieckhaus later argued that democracy could have either positive or negative effects on economic growth depending on where they are in the world, with economies in Africa more likely to grow after regime change while Latin American and Asian economies are more likely to shrink.


Democracies offer greater transparency when it comes to unemployment rates, inflation targets and policy decisions, according to the findings of a 2006 study. Peter Rosendorff and James Raymond Vreeland used data submitted to the World Bank by governments of various countries to compare how transparent those nations were about their unemployment and inflation statistics. They concluded that governments are more likely to allow access to this information if they were relying on the population for reelection.


Democracy has also been shown to lower the level of corruption in a country. Alessandro Pellegata, in a 2009 study, found that the transition to democracy from other political systems led to an increase in corruption, but that the longer that state remained a democracy, the more corruption levels fell. He measured corruption with the Control of Corruption Index, which monitors such things as the exploitation of public office to provide personal gain.

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