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Essay Samples > Political > Democracy and Development
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Democracy and Development

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Theoretically, people describe a democratic nation as one for the people and by the people. However, questions prevail concerning when a country should be democratic. While some parties think that democracy should come after development, other parties strongly believe that democracy should prevail over development. Joseph Siegle is among people who support the latter opinion. In other words, Siegle considers that states would improve economically, if they were democratic as opposed to being autocratic. Siegle is convincing, as he gives valid and concrete reasons. Although states like China, Taiwan, South Korea, amongst other countries in the eastern part of Asia prove that authoritarian leadership supports the development, these states contribute to a small portion of the whole scenario (Siegle, Weinstein & Halperin, 2004). Democracy is more essential to development as opposed to autocracy.

Siegle proves that progress in the authoritarian countries was not considerable for the past forty-five years. His research goes back to 1963. In his and colleagues’ research, Siegle found out that, within this period, the economic growth in poor democracies is fifty percent higher than the economic growth in poor autocracies. In other words, there is rapid growth in Senegal, Ghana, Costs Rica, and Botswana as compared to Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Syria, and Angola (The Democracy advantage, 2005). This scenario applies to the social dimension including health care, girl’s literacy, and access to water, amongst other issues. One reason leading to these outcomes is the poor democracies ability of avoiding/handling catastrophes. The conducted research showed that five out of every eight countries, which successfully handled catastrophes in the past, belonged to the democratic category.

The characteristic of liberty in the democratic states is another reason that leads to the development in these countries. Amartya Sen, a Noble laureate in the category of economy, noted that there were no records showing countries with the freedom of press as having any serious famine (Siegle, Weinstein & Halperin, 2004). Although people assumed that this happened as poor democracies spend more on education and health as compared to other sectors due to populist pressures, this is not true. The research conducted by Siegle showed that the poor democracies managed their resources more effectively.

Democracy helps development due to shared power, openness, and adaptability (Siegle, Weinstein & Halperin, 2004). In shared power, there are both vertical and horizontal mechanisms of accountability. Horizontal accountability prevails in an executive head, who wants to follow a fundamental path of policy a lot more than would take place in an autocratic state. Vertical accountability offers motivation for whichever political ruler to try to plea to the central voter. Openness allows parties to make a significant contribution to policies. Openness allows parties to raise an alarm when things go wrong. This is contrary to autocratic leadership. Openness allows symmetry in the markets which attracts as many buyers and sellers (investors) as possible. Openness allows parties to be transparent due to accountability. Adaptability gives rise to mechanisms that are not only self-correcting, but also mechanisms that bring change to ineffective leadership.

Poor democracies do not face devastating famines as poor autocracies. This is a part of the powerful differences in the economic situation, in both forms of government. Shared power gives rise to some resistance. This resistance creates a check and balance system, which prevent the reigning power from moving to any extreme. For example, poor autocracies tend to invest a lot of funds in military resources as compared to the investment in agriculture and food. Similarly, poor autocracies tend to engage a lot in political conflicts as parties try to outdo the reigning dictatorship, thus, affecting all other sectors that need development. Many of these cases are in Asia and Africa.

Siegle pays a lot of attention to the role of democratic mechanisms such as accountability. Siegle explains that shared power is a reason of great magnitude contributing to the rapid growth in poor democracies as compared to poor autocracies. Leadership systems become accountable because they are answerable to other parties. This takes place by implementing checks and balances in diverse dimensions. The presence of a multiparty political system is a mechanism by itself. Like in any developed, democratic state, poor democracies have multiparty political systems (Hadenius, 1992). The ruling party is accountable to the opposing parties. In addition, the ruling party is accountable to the people who voted it into leadership. The way they lead the country being in power will determine whether they will come back in power the next term.

Siegle appreciates that most of the democratic states in the developing category experience a lot of instability and lack of prosperity due to corruption and other issues. However, he continues to state that the way to bring development in these countries will strengthen the democratic system in these states, but not eliminate democracy. The leaders in these countries should strengthen the democratic mechanism. Siegle explains that a number of these countries try to found these mechanisms in the constitution. A country like Kenya, in the Eastern part of Africa, has recently adopted a new constitution in order to strengthen these mechanisms. Most of the African countries continue to use the services of the International Criminal Court (Hague) in order to show that countries are willing to take any drastic steps in order to instill peace and stability in the countries, thus, facilitating the development.

Siegle clearly states about horizontal and vertical accountability. These are characteristics of shared power. Horizontal accountability focuses on the main leaders such as president, the vice president or the prime minister. It guides the leader in pursuing a fundamental route of policy. Vertical accountability offers inducements for any political ruler to try to petition for the central voter. This means that there is accountability between one main leader and another, and there is accountability between leader and his/her subordinates (Leftwich, 1996). In order to realize this goal, Siegle states that these checks and balances bring moderating effects. Poor democracies try to distribute power as much as possible thus placing some power in the executive, legislature, and judiciary.

Although Siegle’s attention to the accountability mechanism is convincing, one can add more on the same. Many states, especially those in the developing world, want to separate themselves from the control of the first world countries. This is because most of these developed countries give conditions before offering aid to the developed countries (Leftwich, 1996). The control mechanisms ensure that the resources go towards benefiting the country’s development. In other cases, the external global community acts as the check and balance mechanisms. For example, other states do not have high regards for poor countries, whether democratic or autocratic. However, a poor, democratic country carries itself in a way that is contrary to its stand. In order to avoid further criticisms from the external forces, these countries tend to correct the wrongs in their system. Unfortunately, the autocratic countries have little regards on how the other countries perceive them. This is the reason most of the autocratic states are still autocratic to this date.

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