Of Malevolent Democracies and Benevolent Autocracies

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Using the Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) human rights dataset and the Political Terror Scale, Xavier Marquez produces a quantitative history of political regimes, examining malevolent democracies and benevolent autocracies:

If anything, a slight worsening trend in the extent to which states engage in torture, killing, and so on is detectable here, despite the increase in democracy over the same period.

His conclusion:

At any rate, it seems as if the old idea of checks and balances is at least somewhat vindicated by the evidence of the last three decades: constraints matter, and don’t count on benevolent autocrats.


  1. Sconzey says:

    The failure here is to assume a static model — that democracies remain democracies, and autocracies never become benevolent. Actually the main problem with democracies is their tendency to devolve into the worst kind of autocracies.

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