Thursday, August 4, 2011
Here's a sobering thought:
Recall that at higher levels of income societies are safer. It turns out that all the benign effect of higher income depends upon the society being democratic. Indeed, it is more striking than that: in the absence of democracy, as a society starts to get rich it becomes more prone to political violence. Democracies get safer as income rises, whereas autocracies get more dangerous. If it helps, you can think of this as two lines, an upward-sloping one showing how democracies get safer as income rises, and a downward-sloping one showing how autocracies get less safe. The level of income at which democracy has no net effect on violence, $2,700 [per capita], is simply the point at which these two lines cross over. Applying this to the society with the most astounding income change in our times, China has now passed the income threshold - per capital income has soared past $3,000. So, if China runs to form, year by year its spectacular economic growth is now making it more prone to political violence unless it democratizes.
Paul Collier, Wars, Guns, and Votes (Harper, 2009), p. 21.