Good Government

Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?

Chapter 6: In Democracy We Trust, But How Much?

Nicholas Charron and Victor Lapuente

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, political economy, public policy, regulation and governance


Nicholas Charron and Victor Lapuente This chapter deals with the very broad – as well as very highly contentious – question of which political regimes produce better quality of government (QoG). Is there a systematic empirical relationship between the type of political system (for example, multiparty democracy with free and fair elections, single-party regimes, monarchies, military dictatorships, ad hoc personalist systems) and the type of outcomes a political system produces in terms of QoG variables (for example, an efficient and impartial government with lower levels of corruption)? Do democracies always “work better” than autocracies in terms of QoG? Regarding developed countries, it is easy to see that, out of the world top performers in QoG, the vast majority are democratic countries. In fact, long-lasting consolidated democracies such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands or Australia usually top these rankings. Yet, this obvious correlation between advanced capitalist democracies and QoG does not tell us that it was because they were democracies that these countries were able to generate good governance practices. Quite the opposite, democratic consolidation could be the result of the prevalence – for whatever reasons – of certain characteristics of good governance, such as impartial treatment of citizens and the rule of law. Or, alternatively, both democracy and QoG could be the joint result of certain social, economic or cultural factors. If we look at contemporary developing countries, a grayer picture emerges. In recent times, an intense public debate has arisen on this question. Democratic institutions do not seem to meet the expectations of...

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