Freedom House “Nations in Transit Report” – Amongst the words – an interesting number

June 19, 2013

Here is the latest Freedom House “Nations in Transit Report” on Ukraine.

Nothing really surprising in what is going in the right and wrong direction that you cannot read in this blog or countless others like it.

So as there is nothing really new in the report to regular readers of this blog why am I highlighting it?

Well, prior to all the prose, a number caught my eye.  That number was GNI/capita  PPP:  US $7040.

Why?  Because it has a correlation to democracy and democracy consolidation.

“And?” I know you are all thinking.  “The average Ukrainian is poor compared to the average westerner – so what – we all know the bigger the middle class/independent bourgeoisie the more stable democracy is.”

Quite true – but can you put a US$ figure on when those democratic nations or those in transition to democracy have never rolled back to authoritarian regimes when it comes to GNI/capita PPP?

Well for those who have read Lipset, Inglehart & Welzel and in particular Przeworski, this number is particularly important when it comes to democracy and the consolidation thereof.

Below is a table from Democracy and Economic Development by the aforementioned Adam Przeworski.


It shows that in 1999, those nations that were transitioning from authoritarian rule to that of democracy together with those who were consolidated democracies with a GNI/capita PPP: US$ 8000 or more, did not, and have never historically reverted back to authoritarian regimes.

That is not to say all nations with GNI capita PPP greater than $8000 in 1999 were democracies – some of the petro-states did indeed have a greater PPP than $8000 but were not in any transitional or existing democratic governance regime – think “resource curse” for want of a reason why they remained authoritarian despite the GNI/capita PPP US$ figure.

However, Ukraine whilst swinging between the academically defined transitional democratic points of “feckless” and “dominant party” nevertheless academically remains a transitional democracy – and thus it’s GNI/capita PPP:  US$7040 does matter when it comes to the chances of democracy surviving and consolidating – or not!

To crudely index link the GNI/captia PPP of 1999 to the present day, the magic US$ number rises from $8000 to approximately $10,000.  Thus, as Przeworski’s research shows, should Ukraine have a GNI/capita PPP: US$ 10,000 today, history clearly shows without exception in democratic and/or nations in a state of transition to democracy – the democratic system becomes invincible.

The table also clearly shows just how much chance – depending upon how far below the magic GNI/capia PPP US$ figure – nations have of reverting to authoritarian regimes.

Thus, whilst the Freedom House report has a few things to say about national governance, local governance, judiciary, corruption, civil society, media and electoral processes – none of which are new – and all vertical and horizontal institutions are necessarily commented upon through the democratic lens (and one has to say looking like a first semester course content introduction for A Level/college Political Science study) – it says little to nothing about the economics of democracy or where society sits in its pursuit or abandonment of democracy – both of which you would think are very necessary for inclusion in a report relating to nations in transition.

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