Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy
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Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

  • New Thinking in Political Economy series

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
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Chapter 16: Democracy in Low-Income Countries

Arye L. Hillman

Extract

16. Democracy and low-income countries* Arye L. Hillman 1 DEVELOPMENT SUCCESS AND FAILURE Although collective decisions made by voting promise neither justice nor efficient outcomes,1 democracies can be tempered by constitutions and, we would hope, by ethical norms. There is no controversy that life for a population at large in general is better in democracies than in autocracies. Is democracy, however, a necessity for economic development? There are few cases where development success has been achieved without the accountability of democratic institutions. The prominent case of successful economic development under autocracy is Singapore.2 The state in Singapore placed paternalistic restrictions on individual behavior to implement what Tremewan (1994) has called ‘social control’, and also used industrial policy including directed credits to guide and regulate investment. Growth took place with high income equality and private property was protected. It was the mainstay of normative models outside of the public choice framework that government is a benevolent dictator. In Singapore, this was the reality. Paternalistic regulation was, however, quite extensive, and included restraints on individual choice such as banning of long hair on males and disallowing chewing gum. There can be debate about justifications for disallowing long hair on males (ostensibly to avoid sexual confusion but also to preempt public demonstration of teenage rebellion) and whether the discomfort of sitting on other people’s chewed gum warrants a ban on chewing gum. The ‘social control’ was, however, directed at emphasizing education and self-discipline, and establishing a culture of respect for...

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