Democracy and Economic Development
Is democracy favorable or adverse for the environment? While some studies find democracy to increase the likelihood of achieving sustainable development, others propose that democracy rather has negative effects on the environment. This paper contributes explicitly to this debate, but also adds insights from research arguing that the effects of democracy are conditioned by surrounding institutions. More specifically, building on this literature, we argue that the way democracy works – whether it is an instrument for collective action beneficial to the environment or an instrument for patronage and clientelism – depends on levels of economic development. The overall objective of the article is to test this proposition empirically. Using the Marine Trophic Index as a proxy for overfishing, we investigate the impact of democracy on the health of the marine environment in a global sample from 1972 to 2006. The analysis provides interesting insights regarding the condi-tional role of economic development. We report negative effects of democracy in settings of low gross national income, while this pattern is reversed when economic development has reached a certain threshold. Finally, we discuss how democracy affects the prospects for sustainable development and based on our conclusions offer suggestions for future studies in this field of research.
Link to web site