I would like to know whether there are any pieces of scientific research indicating that some political systems are more likely to produce a large economic growth than others. Which systems are they? Where can I read about it?

  • 2
    This is a good question, but one needs to be VERY careful in answering it. Economic growth may be affected by a great deal of extraneous factors independent of a political system (international economic environment; industrial cycles; geopolitical factors, both permanent and temporal - including natural resources, navigable rivers, etc...). For example, France was able to to relatively well economically since WW2, but how much of that can be attributable to USA taking on the costs of allowing France to be safe from both an invasion by Germany AND by USSR, no matter what French thought of NATO?
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 12:12
  • ... Or, for example, growth in China. Their political system change had less to do with the economic growth than both the absolute zero level that the economy started with when Deng Xiaoping started; AND the fact that the western countries were at an economic point of wishing to outsource industrial production. If China was on its own, it would NOT have seen the same growth even remotely.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 12:16
  • @DVK Please note that my question is mostly a reference request. Otherwise, the question could not be answerable. I think it is in this form.
    – ymar
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 15:56
  • 1
    Depends on how you measure economic growth.
    – jrg
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 21:40
  • 2
    Depends on how you construct a typology of political systems. So any answer is going to be the result of your coding system. Also depends on what you consider "scientific." Given your unqualified use of "scientific" in relation to a social science, any answer, due to coding issues, is going to be incompatible with your conception of science. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


Not exactly, Democracies such as the United States and Russia are doing better financially than some Authoritarian countries such as North Korea. However some Authoritarian countries such as Libya (Now a Democracy?) and Saudi Arabia have profited well due to natural resources. Since most Non-Democratic Republic countries are in the Middle East/ Africa, they have profited well from oil so we can't really rely on that.

If you consider that Authoritarian leaders can spend all the money they want to, It might make an Authoritarian government less economically secure. Also considering that leadership can't be changed even if they are destroying the country. Mainly though, economic growth depends on location and allies.

Also, if an Authoritarian government is unstable and are at war with another country, or rebels due to their leadership, they might be spending the majority or their money on their army. In a democracy the budget is regulated by a congress, or parliament so that the right choices can be made. Since my answer to this question is no, I don't know if you want any resources, but just comment and I'll add a link.


Okay, for the most part this supports what I said about Saudi Arabia. I know Saudi Arabia isn't the only authoritarian government, but if there was any correlation, Saudi Arabia would most likely break it. Syria, for example is pretty low on the list.

Democracies/Republics land high and low on this list so there is obviously no correlation there.

Theocracies seem pretty low.

As for constitutional monarchies the U.K is number 24, but Bahrain is 96.

Here's a thread on another site that discusses this too.

  • 1
    The question is mostly about scientific research, so yes, please add the link. Also, it is obvious that the political system of a country isn't the only factor determining its economic growth. What I'm asking is whether there is any correlation.
    – ymar
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 21:07
  • 1
    "Democracies/Republics land high and low on this list so there is obviously no correlation there." I don't follow. That they can just rank both high and low doesn't mean that there is no correlation. The most glaring error in this reasoning seems to be that there can be more republics ranking high than those ranking low. Also, that two states are republics doesn't mean that they have the same political system.
    – ymar
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 2:14
  • I thought you were referring to their type of government?
    – Nick
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 22:12
  • Yes, but there are various types of republics. Perhaps more detailed differentiation is needed to find correlation.
    – ymar
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 23:33
  • 1
    How in the world are "democracies like the US and Russia" even allowed in a sentence. Russia is not a democracy. It just plays one on tv.
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 12:46

Modernization Theory

are any pieces of scientific research indicating that some political systems are more likely to produce a large economic growth than others

Oh boy is there. The dominant theory in political science for most of the 20th century was modernization theory. It is a vast and dense body of research, but the quick summary is that it posits a causal relationship between democratization and economic growth.

For a much deeper discussion, you might see my answer on this question: The causal relationship between economic development and democracy

If you are interested in reading academic work directly, Harvard is currently making available for free a piece by Przworski and Limongi which discusses modernization theory. Both of the authors are well known in political science, specifically in this field. You can find the work here

Varieties of Capitalism

One (more recent) development that you might be interested in is the varieties of capitalism. Rather than focusing on a singular notion of economic growth, this body of research recognizes at least two distinct branches of capitalism. Each kind of capitalism is best developed in a certain kind of political system. As a spoiler, both kinds are best developed different variations of democracy.

What About Dictatorships?

You might wonder why dictatorships perform poorly in the research. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Dictatorships typically don't have effective judicial systems. An effective judicial system enforces the law, without regard to what rulers (Presidents, legislators, etc.) would like. This is necessary because it allows firms to have confidence in the contracts and deals they create. Further reading: look up credible commitment or "cheap talk" models.
  2. Dictatorships tend to focus investment in heavy manufacturing and military applications, foregoing consumer goods and civilian infrastructure. This is the classic guns vs butter problem played out.
  3. Dictatorships invest in education, social protections, and consumer or luxury goods for a limited number of people. This more focused approach produces far less value than general development. One example is in education: democracies tend to support increasingly high education for all citizens, which creates a more valuable workforce. Dictatorships will generally provide education for supporters of the regime, which results in a smaller educated workforce - and less growth.

Further Reading

If you have access to an academic journal database, it is trivial to find hundreds of articles on exactly this subject. Search for "modernization" or something similar and limit your search to articles before about 1990. Alternatively, just browsing political science journals between 1950-1980 will probably net you a lot too.

Foreign Affairs published a list of notable books on modernization theory that you might check out. Many of these were books I had to read in graduate school, and even among the books I don't recognize many of the authors' names are familiar. It looks like a reputable list.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .