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Thursday, January 16, 2014

'Democracy's Pains'

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson:

Democracy's pains: Disillusionment with political leaders is spreading across the globe. In the United States, the approval ratings of the President and the Congress are at all-time lows, and probably for good reason. There is general dissatisfaction with the ruling class across much of Europe, particularly in the South. But this is much broader than a Western world phenomenon.
Protests and alternatives to the Congress Party’s domination of Indian politics are growing, fueling support for fringe activists...
In Turkey, hundreds of thousands poured into the streets in the summer to protest Prime Minister Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, and the discontent is now spreading more broadly... Discontent with the rule of establishment politicians is also growing in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia.
So what’s going on? Two factors seem to be at work, one healthy, one unhealthy.
First, citizens seem to be increasingly unwilling to put up with the antics of unaccountable political elites, often all too willing to pursue policies that their voters do not approve of. ...
All in all, even if the details vary across countries and even if some of the discontent is driven by confused notions and sometimes even by unsavory characters and ideas, a greater unwillingness by the masses to let their political elites run amok is broadly welcome. Democracy will function better, and has a better chance of approximating our ideal “inclusive political institutions,” when complemented by non-electoral constraints, which includes not just the media but also the willingness of ordinary people to get up and protest in the streets.
The second sort is quite different, however. In several countries, vocal and well-organized minorities are proving unwilling to accept elected governments that have brought to power previously disempowered groups. ...[S]o long as elites and a vocal minority refuse to accept electoral results they don’t like, the path to a healthy democracy and truly inclusive institutions will be long, arduous and perhaps blocked for a long time.

    Posted by on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 09:48 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (19)


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