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Advanced Introduction to Law and Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado

This book offers a concise and accessible introduction to the main themes and debates in the field of law and development. It unpacks the role of legal systems and institutions, and investigates what kinds of law and legal arrangements are perceived (correctly or not) to encourage and facilitate development.
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6 Political regimes and development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado


What role can political institutions play in promoting development? Does democracy promote economic development (growth), or vice versa? Do democracies tend to do better than autocracies on other social indicators such as life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality rates, access to basic education and literacy rates?

Most of the rich countries in the world are democracies and most of the poorest countries are not, or have not been for most of their histories.1 Recently, however, this reality seems to be changing. The last quarter century has seen a wave of democratization.2 In 2013, 118 countries were classified as electoral democracies, compared to only 39 in 1974.3 Many of these countries have also adopted new constitutions, entrenched bills of rights and made provisions for constitutional judicial review (the so-called “new constitutionalism”).4 Does this wave of democratization provide a basis for optimism that these countries are now on a much stronger development trajectory?

To examine the relationship between democracy and development, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by “democracy”. Democracy is often understood as a political regime that protects the freedom of individuals and expresses the will of the majority through free and fair elections, protection of minority rights and respect for basic human rights.5

However, notwithstanding this general conception of democracy, there is no consensus on precisely how to define or measure democracy.

There are “thin” or “thick” definitions of democracy (as with the rule of law).6> Thin...

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