Unbundling Democracy: Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Ariel BenYishay and Roger R. Betancourt, Journal of Comparative Economics 42(3), 552-568, August .


Much recent political economy and political science literature views democracy in terms of political rights. This view, often referred to as electoral democracy, is particularly pronounced in the empirical literature. We reincorporate the role of civil liberties, which are at the core of modern democracy, in two ways. We identify four fundamental sources of potential differences in the evolution of political rights and civil liberties. We present systematic, robust and varied empirical evidence on the direct impact of two of these potential sources of differences using cross-national panel data and accounting for the modernization hypothesis. We obtain two noteworthy empirical results: civil liberties exhibit greater persistence than political rights in affecting subsequent outcomes; and, our main result, civil liberties are complementary to political rights when affecting subsequent outcomes, while the reverse is not the case. Consequently, one must incorporate civil liberties as a determinant of electoral democracy. More generally, both dimensions must be considered to understand the setbacks recently experienced by many democracies, despite their holding of free and fair elections.

Links to Researchers