I was reading Dan Drezner's blog where he had some comments about China , democracy and long run economic growth. The crux of his argument is that only Singapore has proven that an authoritarian political system can manage long run economic growth. Thinking about it for a while , I realized that how we define economic growth in the long run ( i.e. per capita GDP growth) is the same whether we're talking about 19th Century America or America over the last decade. However how we define democracy changes over time . If we define democracy according to the breadth of the voting franchise it appears obvious that a state can achieve per capita growth for decades without a majority of citizens being eligible to vote. As a practical matter this should lead us to ask whether husbands and wives would have voted differently often enough to have had a meaningful impact on public policy. Second, if we assume that democracy (at least what we presume are the economic benefits of democracy) is subject to the law of diminishing returns--I would pose the following questions.
1, Can we know the shape of the democracy as an economic benefit curve; the inflection points and the optimum amount of democracy?
2. Might a limited franchise , assuming a regime finds the an ideology to legitimize the limitation, be acceptable from an economic growth perspective? Politics I like to say is about legitimizing coercion, or if you prefer-- power. (Let's say married couples take turns voting and singles must skip an election, would that really make a difference?)