[ExI] Effectiveness of democracy as a result of selection bias

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sun Jun 28 10:12:31 UTC 2009

It just occurred to me that the common adulation of democracy may be
in part due to a misperception of effectiveness caused by a selection
bias. We all know that democracies are nice, rich, don't go to war for
unjust reasons, uphold human rights, justice and the American way of
life, at least compared to dictatorships, kleptocracies, and chaotic
anarchies. Yet, we must remember that a democratic system doesn't just
happen - it requires a number of institutions, an educated and
involved populace, lack of many aggressive and destructive attitudes
and expectations common in many Third World countries. These features
of a society also are highly beneficial for economic effectiveness, so
we end up seeing a lot of non-democracies with miserable economic
performance, made up of serfs ridden by thugs, and we see democracies
with usually good economic performance, made of nice, educated, honest
people, and many of us conclude that democracy must be good for
business. But if analyzed as above, democracy is not the cause of good
performance but a *marker* of good economic potential, which is in
fact due to non-democratic features of the society. Unfortunately,
democracy gives many people the feeling of being involved, of being a
good tribesperson, and positing that it is just a symptom of
prosperity easily becomes a Tetlockian heretical counterfactual. A


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