On 2003-07-14, Wei Dai uttered:

>1. Why is fertility higher in dictatorships? Do dictators like bigger
>populations, and democrats like smaller populations?

Maybe they're poorer in aggregate? I mean, sustenance-level poverty is one
of the prime causal precedents of high fertility, and most dictatorships
are poor ones, because of ineffective rule of law and wide-spread

Sure, there are a few wealthy dictatorships (Saudi Arabia comes to mind),
but that's because of independent factors (which usually do not touch the
entire population).

>Does population growth influence choice of government?

Under extreme poverty, likely not -- poverty would drive people to take
care of their own business, not politics. Under other conditions, probably
yes -- relative poverty and the greed thereoff is how we got the welfare
state. We would expect the per capita lack of income in young generations
induced by population growth to affect at least redistributive policy. For
example, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the precise description of
how politics in India works right now.

If the latter hypothesis pans out, we have to be real grateful that
industrialisation proceeded so rapidly in the West, unhindered by
full-grown democracy. Otherwise we never would have tunneled onto the
level of wealth which throttles population growth, without bumping into a
democratic political wall with the working class requiring income
transfers -- the latter slows growth, so we could well have become stuck
in between.

>2. Should economists try to maximize GDP, or per capita GDP?

Neither, I think. Maximizing GDP would not be conducive to general
welfare. Maximizing per capita GDP today would also violate individual
choice, if we also take into account individuals' time preferences. I
would take full heed of the principle of revealed preference, and just let
people choose.

>Another interesting piece of information in this article is that
>democratic regimes are more frequent in more developed countries, but
>it's not because those countries are more likely to become democracies.
>Rather it's because they are less likely to revert back to dictatorships.
>Among democracies that have collapsed, the one with the highest per
>capita income is Argentina in 1975 -- US$6055.

I would side with Robert Kaplan
(http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97dec/democ.htm) and conjecture that
democracy can only survive in a relatively homogeneous population,
constrained by the rule of law. Secondarily I would claim that democracy
can only survive where its transaction costs and the steadily increasing
dead weight it produces can be absorbed by economic growth. Such
conditions seem to sweep most of the unsuccessful democracies from the

They might sweep us under the rug as well. The conjecture might be false,
but at least it supplies some basis for the claim that growth is
"necessary" (which it of course isn't in any purely economic framework).
Sampo Syreeni, aka decoy - mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED], tel:+358-50-5756111
student/math+cs/helsinki university, http://www.iki.fi/~decoy/front
openpgp: 050985C2/025E D175 ABE5 027C 9494 EEB0 E090 8BA9 0509 85C2

Reply via email to