Considering the relative lack of information many people have when entering the booths (just from my experience in America. Please edit if I'm wrong), why do developed countries prefer democracy over other forms of government, which can work just as well if not better?

Is there a particular benefit to democracy over other forms of government?

Note: the definition of developed countries is taken from Wikipedia. Here

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    In many European countries, turnout at national elections is over 80%. The low turnout in the US might be due to other factors, e.g. the two-party system probably means most people don't have any party they agree with.
    – gerrit
    Dec 19, 2012 at 13:07
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    @gerrit - ... or the fact that in most states, voting for minority party supporters is "useless" (e.g. for Republicans in NY)
    – user4012
    Dec 19, 2012 at 15:14
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    Sorry, this is too broad to be usefully answerable. At the very least, explain which "other forms of government, which can work just as well if not better" you are comparing? And you are also seemingly making a causation assumption (e.g. that it's developed countries which choose democracy, as opposed to the other way around, that democracy is a prerequisite for a country to become "developed").
    – user4012
    Dec 19, 2012 at 15:16
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    @SnakesandCoffee - UAE is hard to classify. They have high level of life for citizens. Yet they also have helot-like foreign workers.
    – user4012
    Dec 21, 2012 at 21:29
  • 1
    To quote Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Mar 26, 2014 at 16:00

5 Answers 5


The question is a bit too broad to be answered for real, but i'll give a small attempt.

Democracy is the only known stable equilibrum in politics - or as close to it as we can get, due to the fact that:

  • There usually is no great concentration/imbalance of power

  • There are stable(ish) ways to respond socially/economically/politically to changes in the environment.

"Developed" country is defined on Wikipedia as:

A developed country or "more developed country" (MDC), is a sovereign state that has a highly developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure relative to other less developed nations. Most commonly the criteria for evaluating the degree of economic development is gross domestic product (GDP), the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of widespread infrastructure and general standard of living

Due to the nature of democracy, when the environment changes, you have a chance to adapt to, either from the top (by electing people who aren't as wrongheaded) OR from the bottom (by simply doing things because you have the power - witness Internet economy.

In any other form of government, you either have to hope the dudes at the top (who for most of human history obeyed the Peter Principle, and even the good/smart ones are usually not smart enough for complex modern systems of today's economy/technology) get things right, OR, have a violent regime change to get rid of the ones who don't get things right. The former rarely happens; the latter isn't very conductive to economy, infrastructure OR general standards of living.

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    What do you mean by stable? Most democracies have been monarchies for far longer than they have been democracies.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 22, 2012 at 22:17
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    @Sklivvz - stable in the game theory context. A non-democratic monarchy is not stable in modern world (due to economic complexity of it), even if it was stable in pre-industrial economy.
    – user4012
    Dec 25, 2012 at 11:01
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    This seems like a decent explanation. The answer would be improved with a citation though, especially since the opening could be a bit controversial (that democracy is an equilibrium condition). Oct 13, 2016 at 19:23
  • @Sklivvz Monarchies are more stable in modern times than in pre industrial times as user4012 explained and many monarchies like the Kingdom of Nri had elective or constitutional monarchies where people still have a say.
    – Tyler Mc
    Jul 16, 2021 at 20:35

Generally speaking, the reason so many developed countries are democracies is due to peer pressure from other developed countries.

100 years ago, many of the "developed" countries were monarchies.

35 years ago the Soviet union was considered to be "developed", but they didn't really have that much of a democracy.

But right now the current trend is toward democracy to the point where some actually include it in the definition of "developed", and in developed countries, people generally have better access to information, and the idea of self rule might appeal to them.


For a completely different viewpoint, think of it not as 'developed countries favor democracy' but rather as 'social structures that facilitate democracy also improve economic development'.

General freedom facilitates entrepreneurship and trade. Stability (i.e., power changes w/o violence) promotes private investment, while risk of future oppresion motivates movement of wealth and best educated people abroad. Well functioning and mostly fair court system facilitates economic trust and growth. Autocracies tend to degenerate to nepotism and kleptocracies, which are a huge drain on economy. Social equality and inclusion allows maximal use of all human resources. Freedom of press and whistleblowing allows to identify and remove bad policies even when they're beneficial to some authorities.

It doesn't always work, naturally, but in general there is a positive causal relationship between all these factors and becoming a [more] developed country; and these are also the exact factors that differentiate "democracies" that simply have some formal elections and democracies that actually function mostly democratically.

  • This seems very much in-line with some articles I've read also. If you have citations, this answer would be improved significantly by including them. Oct 13, 2016 at 19:22

To answer the question, I have a first hand experience. I was born and raised in the former soviet system. We lived in constant physical fear. All I wanted was to get democracy. Then we got it. But my eyes just started to open. Because in fact, what we got was not democracy, but capitalism. So why do we who live in developed countries favor democracy:

  1. we don't want to live in fear
  2. living in dictatorship, we have a fake idea of democracy, as the holy grail.
  3. we do not know that with democracy, usually comes raw form of capitalism
  4. we have no idea of what really capitalism is
  5. we naturally want to express our own opinion freely, which is only possible in democracy
  6. we want to decide our own future by appointing our leaders
  7. we want to be equal (at least politically/legally), and we believe it will be like that in democracy
  8. we think that in democracy we will be able to submit petitions to the house about what the people really want directly (this only works in Europe)

So by the time you get democracy, you realize it was just a dream of being able to appoint leaders who will then make sure the people's will be done. Unfortunately, leaders appointed will only want their own interest to be important. You also realize that capitalism overshadows democracy, and it will have effects on how you can defend yourself in a civil lawsuit for example. Democracy cannot exist without legal equilibrium, so as long as a rich person can buy better quality legal help, there is no democracy. Also democracy needs a form of possibility to submit petitions by the people. This does not work in the US, just in Europe, and it is a huge help for equalizing the elite's power.

  • I think this is a good answer and deserves to know the reason for the down votes.
    – Umbranus
    Nov 10, 2016 at 10:53
  • Unfettered capitalism always leads to oligarchy, no matter the form of government, and oligarchs have a knack for manipulating governments to bend to their will.
    – jwdonahue
    Jul 18, 2021 at 6:07

I would say the western developed countries prefer democracy because it is the result of a historical evolutionary/revolutionary process that took thousands of years to perfect while fighting against monarchs, emperors, dictators, dogmatic clergy, etc.

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