Democracy's Dimesions: Implications & a Case Study

Roger R Betancourt (University of Maryland)

Abstract: It has become customary in both the political economy and the political science literature to define democracy in terms of a single dimension, the political rights or free and fair elections dimension. In this paper, we discuss two additional dimensions, civil liberties and legitimacy, as well as important economic implications of all three dimensions. By including the civil liberties dimension the often cited conclusion of recent empirical literature that there is no causal effect between democracy and development is thrown into question. By including the legitimacy dimension, calls for the use of the analytical narratives approach to understand growth by economist and democracy by political scientists is supported. Finally, an application of these ideas to the recent Honduran political crisis illustrates how these additional dimensions are necessary to understand the evolution of democracy in a specific historical context that befuddled pundits, governments and international organizations.

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