June 16, 2010, 2:10 p.m.
The current issue of the World Political Science Review contains several articles relevant to democracy assistance and democratic practice: "Democracy's Dividend: Political Order and Economic Productivity" by Jörg Faust (German Development Institute)
There is a broad consensus in the social sciences that political institutions have a strong impact on economic development. There is no such consensus, however, about the specific influence of democratic order on economic performance. Based on arguments derived from economic institutionalism, this paper shows that democracy has a positive impact on productivity growth. In contrast to autocratic systems, a democratic order can be interpreted as a competition-friendly regulation of a natural monopoly, which results in comparatively high productivity gains. This hypothesis is supported by quantitative tests for a sample of 81 countries for the period of 1975-2000, which show that increasing levels of democracy generate a productivity dividend.
"'Uphold' or 'Revoke'? A Study of Question Wording in Twelve Municipal Plebiscites in Flanders" by Mieke Beckers and Jaak Billiet (Catholic University of Leuven)
Direct democratic participation through referenda is often contested because one faces the problem of determining referendum questions which avoid confusion or subjectivity. However, detailed knowledge concerning so-called ‘question wording effects' is available within the domain of survey research. In this body of literature, several wording effects such as the use of suggestive wordings, the ambiguity of yes/no questions etc., have been well documented. Yet, despite the similarities between referendum and survey questions, knowledge from survey methodology is rarely employed within the literature on referenda. The present study discusses a number of question wording effects studied in survey research and shows their relevance in referendum settings. Moreover, this article explores these effects in twelve local referenda in Flanders. Building on this empirical evidence, we conclude with a number of precise guidelines regarding the quality of referendum questions.
"European Integration of Postcommunist States: Safe Future or Evolutionary Trap?" by Liutauras Gudžinskas (Vilnius University)
The most important challenges for these countries that have chosen the path of European integration are singled out. It is evaluated how these challenges have been dealt with since the entry to the EU. Although the main focus of article is the whole region, the situation of Lithuania is analyzed in more detail. Judging from the present trends, one may conclude that the latter country (along with some other postcommunist EU member states) may remain in an economic periphery of Europe distinguished by political instability, distrust of political institutions and increasing "social deficit."