Diversity and democracy do not go easily together – Københavns Universitet

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07. april 2017

Diversity and democracy do not go easily together

In the wake of the surge of authoritarian leaders in the world editorial columnist Ross Douthat from the New York Times looks for answers to questions regarding the correlation of democratic leadership and national diversity. He finds the answers in a new paper from the economists Professor Oded Galor, Brown University, and postdoc Marc Klemp, Department of Economics at University of Copenhagen.

Douthat writes: "One of the hard truths of human affairs is that diversity and democracy do not go easily together. In the Middle East today as in Europe’s not-so-distant past, the transition from authoritarianism to popular sovereignty seems to run through ethnic or religious purges. Worldwide, many of the models of successful democratic government are effectively ethno-states, built on past cleansings or partitions or splendid isolation. And in the West in recent years, both mass immigration and cultural fragmentation have brought authoritarian temptations back to life.

This pattern runs deep in our species’s history. A new paper from the economists Oded Galor and Marc Klemp finds a strong correlation between diversity and autocracy in pre-colonial societies, with a legacy that extends to today’s institutions as well. The authors suggest that authoritarianism emerges from both bottom-up and top-down pressures: A diverse society seeks strong central institutions for the sake of cohesion and productivity, and internal division, stratification and mistrust increase “the scope for domination” by powerful elites."

Douthat sets off in the paper of Galor and Klemp when treating the leadership from that of the European Union to the one in the United States, while flying over Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Russia.

You can read both the full NY Times column and the scientific paper of Galor and Klemp.