This forceful case for a "democracy centered" foreign policy argues that fostering democracy in poor countries enhances their prospects for economic growth and social welfare. The experience of China and a formidable body of scholarship argue otherwise: authoritarian rule is often quite functional in the early phases of economic development, until rising incomes and the emergence of a middle class lay the groundwork for democratic transition. But Halperin and his co-authors sift through the vast academic literature and economic data to conclude that, thanks to their openness and shared structures of power, poor democracies "as a whole" have actually outperformed nondemocracies. They do not establish a direct causal relationship between democracy and development but show correlations that render suspect the notion of an authoritarian advantage. (The success of East Asian autocracies they call "highly exceptional.") In the end, however, there may be more common ground among development experts than the book admits: when old ideological debates are put aside, most experts agree that institutions matter"--stable, noncorrupt, rules-based governance is essential for sustained economic growth. The unresolved problem is how the outside world can help build such institutions in the poorest regions of the world. This book is most insightful in identifying the moments when outside states can have an impact on democratization by fostering support for reformers and creating incentives for more accountable government.
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