Michael L. Ross, "Does Oil Hinder
Democracy?" World Politics (53:3) April 2001: 325-61.
- Research Questions
- Does oil impede democracy?
- Does oil impede democracy everywhere or just in the Middle East?
- Do other commodity exports also impede democracy?
- Are other factors more important than
oil in explaining absence of democracy?
- Independent Variables
- Oil reliance measured by the value of fuel-based exports divided by GDP
- Mineral reliance measured by the value of non-fuel mineral exports divided by GDP
- Income measured as natural log of per capita income
- Islam measured as percent of population that is Muslim
- OECD, membership in which is a proxy of highly developed
- History, measured as regime type (dependent variable) lagged by five years
- the most important influence on a state's regime type may often be its own peculiar history
- Dummy Variables designed to account for
- end of the Cold War
- regional "contagion" effects
- Dependent Variable
- Regime type, e.g., democracy/non-democracy (http://www.bsos.umd.edu/inscr/polity/
- 113 states between 1971 and 1997
Three Alternative Causal Explanations
- rentier effect: oil rich regimes use low taxes and patronage to relieve pressures for more democracy
- high percentage of government revenues derived from external (foreign-paid) rents
- low domestic taxes reduce demands for government accountability to domestic groups
- domestic taxes in France, England, and United States produced demands there for government accountability to the people
- oil wealth allows government to spend more on patronage, which dampens latent pressures for democratization
- government-sponsored associations drive out independent civil associations
- repression effect: oil wealth enables regimes to spend more on security and repression forces
- extra security might be needed to quell ethnic conflict, since mineral wealth is often geographically concentrated but benefits are
- modernization effect: dependence on commodity exports retards social and cultural changes necessary for democracy
- Relationship of Oil to Democracy
- a state's reliance on either oil or mineral exports tends to make it less democratic;
- this effect is not caused by other types of primary exports;
- it is not limited to the Arabian Peninsula, to the Middle East, or to sub-Saharan Africa; and,
- it is not limited to small states.
- Rentier Effect?
- higher personal and corporate taxes are strongly associated with more democratic government
- the larger the government, the less movement toward democracy over the following five years
- Repression Effect?
- oil wealth may be linked to higher levels of military spending, which in turn tends to impede democracy
- but there is no evidence of a similar pattern for mineral wealth;
- nor is there evidence to support the claim that oil or mineral wealth leads to higher levels of military personnel
- Modernization Effect?
- states with greater natural resource wealth tend to grow more slowly than resource-poor counterparts
- states with natural resource wealth have more civil wars
- states with oil and mineral wealth are less democratic
- this relationship is present in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, not
just the Middle East