Harbors and Democracy
Although geography is widely viewed as an important factor in long-term development, little attention has been paid to its role in democratization. This study focuses on the possible impact of a feature of littoral geography: natural harbors with access to the sea. By virtue of enhancing connections to the wider world, we argue that harbors foster (a) development, (b) mobility, (c) naval-based defense forces, and (d) diffusion. Through these pathways, operative over secular-historical time, areas blessed by natural harbors are more likely to develop democratic forms of government. This argument is tested with a unique database measuring distance to natural harbors throughout the world. We show that there is a robust negative association between this measure and democracy in country and grid-cell analyses, and in instrumental variable models where harbor distance is instrumented by ocean distance.