Indian Democracy – Remarkable Exception
Scholars are convinced that democracies can be established at any level of income but they do not survive at a low level of income. With few exceptions, countries at higher levels of income tend to have stable democracies. Adam Przeworski, a leading Polish American Professor of political science, calculates that since World War II, 70 democracies in poor countries have died, whereas, of the 37 democracies in the richer world, none collapsed. So Przeworski concludes “No democracy ever fell in a country with a per capita income higher than that of Argentina in 1975, $6000.
India has just crossed $2000 per capita income. And in 1947, India’s per capita income was not more than $200 using today’s price. Thus India’s longevity is unique. Przeworski calls India a remarkable exception.
Scholars have come to believe that in poor societies, politics is a do-or-die situation. Since governments so heavily determine or decide economic opportunities at a low level of income, the capture of political power greatly enhances one’s and supporting group’s economic chances, and loss of power can spell doom. It is common for this doom to include imprisonment and a form of extreme vengeance. In contrast, at a high level of income, the economy becomes complex and opportunities can be pursued in many sectors not dominated by the government. Loss of political power does not entail an abrupt and total closure of opportunities. Acceptance of election defeat is not overly costly.
Thus, we find less political feud which tends to flourish the democracies in rich countries.