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I've completed a "Moral Foundation of Politics" course on Coursera.org and there's an interesting quote that sounds like this:

Schumpeterians will often say, you can't call a country a democracy until a government has twice lost an election and given up power

But I cannot find any of those Schumpeterians' real quotes about this or books or articles where they expressed ideas like this. Are there any?

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[W]hose quote or idea is this?

The quote, or at least most of it, appears in,

Politics against domination: A conversation with Sterling Professor Ian Shapiro, June 8, 2016

What factors determine whether a democratic system will take hold and survive?

You need alternation: what political scientists call the “two turnover rule.” They don’t like to call a country a democracy until a government has twice lost an election and given up power. If a country has two or three turnovers they tend to continue. [Emboldening added.]

It appears that the quote comes from Ian Shapiro, a Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

Note that Ian Shapiro is the instructor of the course, Moral Foundations of Politics, referenced in the question.


The idea comes from Samuel P. Huntington and the book, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, 1991, and is called the "two-turnover test".

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    I was actually looking for who prof. Shapiro was referring to (sorry for a bit misleading title), but thanks to the quote you provided I learned that this is called "two turnover test" and managed to find who seems to be the original author of the term (not quite sure that it wasn't used before but that's good enough for me) - Samuel Huntington with his 1991 book "The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century", so thank you for the hint! Oct 1 '20 at 21:22
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Schumpeter was known among other things in political science for defining a democracy to be a system in which the leader is determined in popular elections of a wide franchise (a much shallower but more easily operationalized definition than most political scientists used). The quoted proposition, that you can't call a country a democracy until a government has twice lost an election and given up power, is basically a corollary of this definition, whether or not he actually said it personally.

If there has never been a transition of power, it by definition isn't a democracy under his simple rule. The two time rule shows that this is actually the system of government in a place and not just a one off event that could be explained by other means or was a fluke. A number of countries have had "elected kings" or Presidents for life, in which the first leader is elected democratically and then there is a hereditary or continuous non-democratic succession, which is not consistent with a state being a democracy.

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