By Arnold Kling
This paper by Edward L. Glaeser, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, and Andrei Shleifer is a couple of years old, but it speaks to issues that come up here frequently.
we find that, in a variety of specifications, initial levels of constraints on the executive do not predict subsequent economic growth, whereas initial levels of human capital continue to be strong predictors.
At one point, they point out that most countries that were underdeveloped in 1960 spent a lot of time between 1960 and 2000 as dictatorships, but economic outcomes diverged. Their conclusion:
our evidence suggests some skepticism about the viability of democracy in countries with low level of human capital – there have been few examples of such democracies in the world. Our evidence suggests in contrast that the Lipset-Przeworski-Barro view of the world is more accurate: countries that emerge from poverty accumulate human and physical capital under dictatorships, and then, once they become richer, are increasingly likely to improve their institutions.
So, the best way out of a bad idea trap is not to write a Madisonian Constitution. It’s to get the dictator to promote education and saving. Eventually, as the economy improves, people develop a taste for better institutions, including democracy.
Maybe. But I don’t know how you explain Russia with that model.