Democracy and Development: Cruel Dilemma or Symbiotic Relationship?

12 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2003


The paper dissects the hypothesis that democracy is inimical to economic development. The historical origin of this perspective is presented and its key theoretical and empirical assumptions are examined and assessed. The chief conclusion is that there is no necessary tradeoff between democracy and development. When compared to authoritarian regimes, democracy is more likely to foster an environment that facilitates the innovative and entrepreneurial process so essential for sustained development. On the other hand, democracy is better for development only when accompanied by an expansion of markets and competition. Democracy without markets is unlikely to deliver significant growth. In this context, liberalized international trade can act in a productive symbiosis with democratic institutions to promote development by facilitating bilateral flows of ideas, knowledge, goods, services, and technology.

Suggested Citation

Bhagwati, Jagdish, Democracy and Development: Cruel Dilemma or Symbiotic Relationship?. Available at SSRN:

Jagdish Bhagwati (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10009

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