What a Difference a Demos Makes


Less than you might think, actually—or so say the authors of the new NBER paper "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?" A 30-year international comparison reveals that (excluding communist regimes) undemocratic governments don't differ systematically in their policies from democratic ones, except in that the former are prone to implement political "barriers to entry." (Since those "barriers" often include "disappearing" your political opponents, that's still a significant point in democracy's favor.) That conclusion dovetails with recent challenges raised against Amartya Sen's famous contention that democracy innoculates countries against the risk of famine.