I got Christopher Coyne’s “After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy” (previous mentions on this blog) a while back, but put it aside for more interesting stuff. I bookmarked a passage a while back to write about, but before I get to that I’ll give my overall impression. It’s a thin book, both literally and figuratively. The era of exporting democracy is fairly short (“exporting civilization” is eternal) and his analysis seems aimed at people who wouldn’t normally read academic publications anyway. The book presumes readers have not heard of game theory, and so far all its focus is on the prisoner’s dilemma. There’s also an explanation of the concept of public choice, but that also seems very basic. His main point seems to be that exporting democracy via military occupation can easily go wrong and often does. There’s lots of listing of ways in which problems can occur, but no fine-grained analysis of how prevalent or harmful particular problems are. I’m still interested in what he thinks of this.

Onto the bookmarked passage. I’ll append endnotes at the bottom, replacing cites with the complete titles from the bibliography:

This uncertainty is evident in the ongoing debate among social scientists regarding the social and economic conditions that are conducive to a sustainable liberal democracy. Academics have long considered several factors, including a middle class and a certain level of economic development, ethnic homogeneity, historical experience with constitutions and liberal democracy, and a national identity, to be preconditions for a sustainable liberal democracy.* But recent research has called these previously assumed preconditions into question.
For instance, a recent cross-country study by Steven Fish and Robin Brooks finds, counter to prevailing wisdom, that social heterogeneity does not increase conflict or stifle democracy.** As Larry Diamond, a leading expert on democracy, has recently pointed out, scholars have spent decades attempting to understand the factors that contribute to stable democracies, but the wave of new democracies that arose between 1974 and 1994, a period wherein democracy spread to countries that lacked these conditions, “raised the prospect that democracy could emerge where the social scientists would least expect it.”*** On the one hand, this fact can be viewed as a positive, since it indicates that all countries have some democratic potential. On the other hand, however, this realization highlights the limited knowledge of scholars regarding the factors and causes of sustainable democracy. It is my contention that this latter realization should be reason for pause when considering reconstruction via military occupation as a policy option.****
*These are only a few of the preconditions for consolidated democracy that have been raised in the literature. For a more complete list, see [Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century], 37-38.
**See [M. Steven Fish and Robin S. Brooks, Does Diversity Hurt Democracy? Journal of Democracy 15(1): 154-166]. [more slides here]
***[Larry Diamond, Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq], 19-20. In earlier work, [Larry Diamond, Juan J. Linz, and Seymor M. Lipset. Introduction: What Makes For Democracy? In Politics in Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences with Democracy] discuss the factors that contribute to the establishment and consolidation of a democracy.
****See [Doh Chull Shin. On the Third Wave of Democratization: A Synthesis and Evaluation of Recent Theory and Research. World Politics 47: 135-170], who puts forth several general propositions on the third wave of democratization, which include (1) there are few preconditions for the emergence of democracy, (2) no single factor is sufficient or necessary to the emergence of democracy, (3) the emergence of democracy in a country is the result of a combination of causes, (4) the causes responsible for the emergence of democracy are not the same as those promoting its consolidation, (5) the combination of causes promoting democratic transition and consolidation varies from country to country, and (6) the combination of causes generally responsible for one wave of democratization differs from those responsible for other waves.