In an earlier blog I suggested a theory that the likelihood any particular country would have a democratic government was in direct proportion to the ratio of commodity exports (agriculture and minerals) to non-commodity exports.
Now is the time to test the hypothesis. The data is in three pdfs. The data for countries a-e, e-n and n-z are from the 1987 Encyclopedia Britannica Data book. The data hasn't changed much. There is one exception that supports the hypothesis.
First, we need a minimum criterion for "country." There are 170 countries in the UN. Many of them have populations smaller than San Francisco and GNPs smaller than Disneyland. If we eliminate those, mostly islands we have roughly 104 countries. The changes since 1987 include Germany is now one country and the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are now several countries.
Among the 104 countries the ones with the highest proportion of non-commodity exports that are democracies are: Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States, United Kingdom and Zambia.
recent data would put Mexico on the list. Since 1987 Mexico joined
NAFTA and has added large amounts of non-commodity exports.
Interestingly, Mexico got rid of one-party rule only six years ago and
is more democratic.
There are several other problems with this list. I don't know if Zambia should be considered a democracy but its numbers would put it on the list. Singapore is not fully a democracy with Lee Quan Yu still alive but it is clearly on the list.
Those other countries, not on the list, with low ratios of non-commodity exports that are democracies are: Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Uruguay.
Australia and New Zealand are democracies because they were settled by emigrants from a democracy. They are also highly productive agriculture producing nations badly needed in South East Asia.
Norway is an old democracy, probably the source of all the other democracies, but it is not on the list because it has recently become an oil country. Oil may decrease the level of democracy in Norway. Norway is a country to observe closely as it is slowly being taken over by anti-Semitic Lefties. Will democracy fail in Norway?
Brazil, Peru and Uruguay are recent democracies. I know little about them personally, but their numbers are growing enough to put them on the list soon.
Problematic under this non-commodity export=democracy hypothesis are: China, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Russia. China would be on this list because it is a large and growing industrial export nation but it is clearly not a democracy. Will it become a democracy like Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, its sister ethnic Chinese nations? Probably on the basis of my non-commodity export=democracy hypothesis it will become democratic.
Lebanon was not on the list because it has too small a dollar value of exports
but the exports were non-commodities. Maybe it should be considered unique because of its long civil war or maybe
it should be treated as part of Syria.
Jordan, like Lebanon, is a small country, barely qualifying as a country based on dollar value of exports, but it has a high proportion of non-commodity exports. Jordan is not a democracy since it has a functional King.
Iran has a long history of governance that resembles democracy but it is entirely an oil exporting nation now. It will be a long time before it can become a democracy. The same is true for Iraq's future, in spite of announced American foreign policy.
Russia is the biggest enigma for this hypothesis. Russia has a growing non-commodity export market, but it is also a major oil and gas exporter. It has a democracy now and for the past 15 years. Will democracy continue?
Summary: Does empirical evidence support the hypothesis that democractic government correlates with nations that have a substantial non-commodity export base? The answer is a firm "Yes!" The exceptions are few.
There are several historic explanations the hypothesis explains and several questions about the future that the hypothesis raises.
Spain and Greece were late in becoming democracies, the hypothesis explains these two because they were late in developing non-commodity exports.
The questions raised about the future are: will China become a democracy which the hypothesis predicts and will Russia become an autocracy which the hypothesis also suggests?