Democratic Legacies: Using Democratic Stock to Assess Norms, Growth, and Regime Trajectories
While social scientists often theorize about the enduring effects of past regime characteristics, conceptual issues and data limitations pose real challenges for assessing these legacies empirically. This paper introduces a new measure of democratic stock, conceptualized as the accumulated experience of democratic rule within a polity. Using a weighted sum of past values on the Electoral Democracy Index from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, we capture variation in past experiences with democratic institutions and practices in 199 political units from 1789 to 2019. This measure of democratic stock provides additional information on a country's political history that is not captured by its present level of democracy or regime type. To illustrate this, we highlight several cases and revisit prominent theories about democratic norms, economic growth, and democratic decline. These applications encourage scholars to think more about political outcomes as legacies of democracy.
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