Monday, October 25, 2010

Rainfall and Democracy

Is there a connection between rainfal and democracy?  In an interesting paper "Rainfall and Democracy" (August 27, 2010), Stephen Haber (Stanford University) and Victor A Menalda (University of Washington) argue -
Why have some countries remained obstinately authoritarian despite repeated waves of democratization while others have exhibited uninterrupted democracy? This paper explores the emergence and persistence of authoritarianism and democracy.  Although all of the world’s societies were initially tribal, the bonds of tribalism weakened in places where the surpluses associated with settled agriculture gave rise to trade, social differentiation, and taxation. .... while low levels of rainfall cause persistent autocracy and high levels of rainfall strongly favor it as well, moderate rainfall supports stable democracy. This econometric strategy also shows that rainfall works through the institutions of the modern territorial state borne from settled agriculture, institutions that are proxied for by low levels of contemporary tribalism.
India has stuck to democracy since Independence except for a brief period in the 1970s when emergency was imposed.  However, neighbouring countries and many African countries have failed in their march to democracy.  Even within India, there are many fertile areas (for eg., many parts of UP, Bihar, AP etc) where feudalism is still alive.

In general, Hummingbird believes that "peace and prosperity" go together.  Decent rainfall brings about prosperity in the rural lands.  But does this alone help in loosening the grip of feudalism?  Hummingbird believes that education for the masses is an important ingredient to remove authoritarianism / feudalism.  If that key input is not there, democracy may not blossom / bring good dividends.  No wonder, we find big difference in the stages of development across various States.