The Myth of the Democratic Advantage
Published online: 4 August 2015
Abstract Existing research points to a democratic advantage in public good provision.
Compared to their authoritarian counterparts, democratically elected leaders face more
political competition and must please a larger portion of the population to stay in office.
This paper provides an impartial reevaluation of the empirical record using the tech-
niques of global sensitivity analysis. Democracy proves to have no systematic associ-
ation with a range of health and education outcomes, despite an abundance of published
empirical and theoretical findings to the contrary.
Public good provision
Democracies are thought to have a comparative advantage in public good provi-
sion. The theoretical reasoning is straightforward. To stay in office, elected leaders
must please a large portion of the population, and providing schools, water,
electricity, access to vaccinations, and other basic necessities is usually the best
way to garner that support. In contrast, authoritarian rulers generally have a less
Bencompassing interest^ and must placate smaller Bselectorates^ and Bwinning
coalitions.^ Rather than provide expensive public goods, they may prefer to buy
support by distributing private rents (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2003;Deacon2009;
McGuire and Olson 1996). Authoritarianism reduces political competition and
access to information, which should also serve to worsen governance (Brown 1999;
Lake and Baum 2001).
St Comp Int Dev (2017) 52:261–277
Replication data available at www.rorytruex.com.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12116-015-9192-4)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Rory Truex
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015