Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the Future of Democracy in Egypt and China

Dictators, it seems, are increasingly facing a conundrum. Stifle growth and be thrown out now, or foster it and be thrown out later. I've made the same prediction Barry Eichengreen makes here many times over (and I doubt that I'm alone): That is, as a country ruled by an authoritarian regime becomes more prosperous, more and more of the population rises into a growing middle class; it then begins demanding more legal protections for their savings, wealth and property; next, it demands more voice in how the country's politics are administered, along with greater civil liberties; eventually, the authoritarian regime collapses. In the best of worlds, democracy might emerge. I still think China will undergo this sequence, although there is no telling how long the process might take or how long the regime will be able to forestall the endgame by controlling who is able to benefit from the boom and by buying off the small but growing middle class. Egypt is a good example, but whether the end result there is a democracy is yet to be seen.

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