Steve Haber and I are intrigued by the fact that the world can be divided into three groups: stable democracies such as the U.K., persistent autocracies, such as Oman, and countries that cycle back and forth between regime types, but create neither stable democratic institutions nor durable authoritarian institutions, such as Peru. Why have some countries remained obstinately authoritarian despite repeated waves of democratization while others have exhibited uninterrupted democracy?
When we inquired into why this is the case, however, we grew dissatisfied with existent explanations that lacked consistent empirical support. These include differences in wealth and education across countries, which Acemoglu and Robinson have shown are only spuriously associated with regime types. Similarly, we have shown that an explanation based on reliance on natural resources also suffers from the same problem. In other work I have shown that the high levels of inequality are not necessarily an impediment to democracy—as several Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia attest to. Although both countries’ colonial legacy and factor endowments (such as the quality of the soil and the supply of labor) appear to be systematically related to whether they are democratic today (Engerman and Sokoloff), evidence for these explanations exclude Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, Japan, and Thailand.
That made us wonder…
In order to make sense of these patterns, we explore the relationship between factor endowments, institutions and investments in human capital over the longrun in “Rainfall, Human Capital and Democracy.”