Economic and Political Liberalism and Democracy Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


The following essay tries to answer the question that whether or not Economic and political liberalism can lead to democracy, but not the other way around. The essay also examines the importance of the concept of economic and political liberalism and the relationship between liberalism and democracy.

However it is important to define the terms liberalism, economic liberalism, political liberalism as well as democracy so as to have an understanding of what they entails. Liberalism encompasses the concept of equal rights as well as individual liberty. Liberalism was as a result of the classical liberalism as well as the social liberalism which existed in the eighteenth century and ninetieth century respectively.

Economic liberalism refers to the economic philosophy which supports the concept of private ownership of property. Political liberalism on the other hand entails the freedom that the people are given to be involved with the decisions in society and so the individuals are thus allowed to exercise their constitutional rights.

Democracy refers to a concept that is applied by the government and in which case power is indirectly held by citizens usually in a free and independent electoral system.

Importance of democracy and liberalism

Liberal International which is a world wide alliance of liberal institutions as well as political parties was formed in 1947 and its main aim is to establish the cross-cultural connections across the globe. The federation has with time managed to ensure liberty of the individuals.

For instance, the federation’s establishment of a judiciary that is independent and free, freedom of speech and association among others are some of its achievements. Liberalism has changed the political environment in that it has translated it from dictatorship to a constitutional one. The other achievement is boosting of free markets through promotion and geographical expansion.

Liberalism is also associated with globalization and many scholars believe that globalization is a by product of liberalism that was introduced in 18th century. Democracy on the other hand is being viewed by scholars around the world to be the ideal form of political governance.

This is due to the fact that the people’s rights are usually safeguards as a result of democracy. It ensures that there is peaceful coexistence among the individuals and this in turn enhances the economic development (Berman 139).

Relationship between liberalism and democracy

Charles Boix who was a scholar argued that economic liberalism is created with democracy and usually leads to productive processes, wealth generation and most importantly it enhances the propensity and well being of the society.

He argues that most successful countries around the world practices democracy in their governance. These countries which practices democracy have their per capita income of over $7,000 which is in contrast with those who are governed by dictators (Boix 178).

The position of liberals and democrats

Liberalism is concerned with the assignment of freedom as well as maintenance of human dignity as much as possible in any social situation. Liberalism means freedom for all without any form of discrimination to individuals of any given race, color, religion group etc. Both liberty and equality complements one another and they do not conflict one another at all.

One’s freedom limits the freedom of another and this implies that liberalism as a theory in political science is ideal for study. Abundance of life is only achievable where there is freedom and therefore life and freedom are reasonably inseparable. Therefore, liberalism discourages any act of violence as much as possible and it thus offers justice to the innocent.

Liberals also recognizes that life and society in general are subject to changes from time to time and therefore they try to come up with new concepts regarding liberalism each and every time so as to keep in track with the changing dynamism.

Though conflicts exist between liberalism on one hand and democracy on the other hand, the two are usually complementary. Democracy which is a type of government involves the majority rule. Democracy could be perceived as oppressive especially where the minority groups are oppressed by the majority where majority groups dominate.

Contradictions between Economic liberalism and democracy

The concept that ‘economic and political liberalism can lead to democracy, but not the other way around’ is not true. Many countries around the world started practicing democracy in their governance recently after observing the United States and European nations practice it.

The concept of democracy has thus led to violence and instability particularly in Middle East and the main cause of instability and violence is the fact that when democracy arises before the preconditions for economic liberalism are met, then the rule of law will be violated and hence democracy will not be attained. The political institutions that enhance democracy are deemed to be necessary before democracy can occur.

Such institutions include organized parties, professional news media and the rule of law. Farid and Robert emphasizes that the economic as well political liberalism are not the main factors that must be present for democracy to exist and so, there is need to consider other factors such as electing good leaders instead of dictators(Berman 141).

Problems are bound to arise once a country practices democracy for the first time. There are those countries which do not have history as far as liberalism is concerned and therefore, experimenting democracy implies that those leaders who get into power illegally will tend to counter democracy at the expense of their power.

The leaders can thus decide to cause political tensions in an effort to resist democracy as they view democracy as a tool to deprive them the powers they have been enjoying (Zakaria 95).

Many developing nations around the world such as Philipines,Venezuela,Kazakhstan among others have indeed experienced problems as a result of experiencing democracy. The citizens are the ones who are greatly affected as the leaders’ battle with the inception of democracy (Kagan 118).

Zakaria in his analysis of the modernization theory held the view that those governments who are ruled by dictators are much better as compared to the ones that are governed by democracies. He also viewed that democracy has been as a result of the industrialization and economic growth as well and the two must exist if democracy is to be attained.

He argues that the period between 1950s and 1960s saw many governments faced with the problems of budgetary deficits, inflation and low economic growth when they encompassed democracy in their governance.

This thus made many people to prefer for dictatorship instead of democracy following the adverse effects that were associated with democracy the progress to democracy therefore is marathon implying that the economic wealth must be present for the democracy to be attained effectively. Thus, no democracy can exist where there is no economic growth (Kagan 120).

Political scientists among them Adam Prezeworski argued that economic development thrived well in those countries that have dictatorship system of government. According to him, democracy is a by-product of the economic development that is realized as a result of dictatorship.

Most developing nations across the world have preferred dictatorship to democracy due to the economic success that is associated with dictatorship form of governance (Kagan 120).

Zakaria used the anti-democratic views that were drawn by Huntington in late 1960’s.Huntington in his analysis held the view that order must indeed precede liberty as far as developing nations are concerned. Authoritarian countries sometimes push for the economic reforms in order to modernize their countries as Japan did in 19th century.

In an attempt to modernize their countries, Huntington held the view that legitimate public order is the main concern rather than mere liberty.

In this remarks, Huntington argued that developed nations such as the United States considered their governance system first before democracy and therefore the developing countries needs to follow suit if they are to be successful. A country should first pay attention to its citizens before it can decide on how it should operate. Order must therefore precede liberty and democracy (Kagan 121).

Once a country adopts democracy when it is not ready for it, the democracy tends to become destructive for the people. This is in contrary with the expectations because democracy is vested with the role of liberating citizens and not subjecting them to terrible situations. This problem of immature democracy has been deemed as the greatest challenge in the world and many people have opted tyranny instead (Kagan 121-122).

In his narrative of the modernization paradigm, Zakaria argued that past dictatorships of some governments helped to liberalize people by improving their lives. The dictators actually came up with decisions that helped the economies to grow.

The also liberalized the legal system of the economy as well as travel and worship rights. This was important because democracies would not have been possible if the dictatorships had not laid the groundwork. Dictatorship could be portrayed in the regime of some rulers in places like Taiwan and South Korea around 1950s among other places (Kagan 124).

However, Zakaria view that dictatorship promotes development and the development in turn leads to democracy were contested by Adam Prezeworski in his Harvard International Review. Adam Prezeworski argued that dictatorship and democracies do not affect the economic growth of a nation. This is due to the fact that a country may remain poor despite the type of regime it decides to adopt.

He further argued that some countries like Japan and Ireland have managed to fight poverty through democracy and economic growth. Dictatorial leaders in Malaysia and Singapore have also managed to fight poverty through dictatorship in their ruling.

This indicates that there may be no direct relationship between democracy and economic growth in most of the cases. Also, only a few people have ever claimed to have enjoyed liberty as a result of elections. Liberal governance therefore that is concerned with protecting the rights of individuals may not always linked with choosing leaders through democracy (Kagan 126-127).


To conclude the discussion entailing the correlation that exists between liberalism and democracy and the relationship between democracy and economic development, it is worth to note that the government responsiveness with regards to the needs of its citizens is paramount for the democracy to be attained.

Citizens on the other hand must also take the initiative and formulate their preferences so that the government can have a clue on what they actually needs and thus come up with solutions (Dahl 85-86).

Those countries that encompass dictatorship are deemed to do better economically as compared to those that practice democracy. According to Zakaria, liberal democracy in the world has not been achieved by many countries and he noted that nearly half of the nations are experiencing dictatorship. Autocracy on the other hand, conflicts with state building and the rule of law.

Those nations that shift to practice democracy usually encounter many difficulties as far as the rule of law is concerned. Therefore, in order for countries top advance economically and in turn raise the living standards of their citizens, they must strengthen the rule of law.

However, the progress towards strengthening rule of law is not easy or nor is it inevitable as far as democracy is concerned. Those countries that are democratizing usually struggles hard in developing the rule of law and the various aspects of democratization that exists usually contribute problems to the rule of law (Carothers 155-159).

The efforts by the government of the United States should be directed towards promoting democracy in the entire world in order to ensure peaceful coexistence and economic and political stability.

However, the democracy have been criticized in recent years with the negative effects of autocratic regimes that have been brought down and introduction of the electoral democratic system in Palestine, Iraq as well as Africa. The democracy has led to political tensions, massive killings.

Also, democracy should thus not to be considered as good governance and should also be differentiated with liberalism.

Works Cited

Berman, Sheri. How Democracies Emerge: Lessons form Europe. Journal of Democracy. London: Frank Cass, 2007

Boix, Carles. Democracy and redistribution. London: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Carothers, Thomas. How democracies Emerge. London: Taylor & Francis, 2007

Dahl, Robert democracy sourcebook. Massachusset: MIT Press, 2003.

Kagan, Richard.Taiwans’ statesman: Lee Teng-Hui and democracy in Asia. Pennslavania: Naval Institute Press, 2007.

Zakaria, Fareed.The Rise of Illiberal Democracy. Indiana: Indiana University Press.1997

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