The corona virus and democracy

Spoiler: The number of democracies has fallen during the last decade. For the first time since 2002, there are now more autocracies than democracies in the world. The EU now has its first autocracy, Hungary.

The Polish government is following close in the path to autocracy. The governments in Hungary and Poland have systematically attacked the media’s and judiciary’s independence the last years. Without an independent media and judiciary, the regimes’ next step on the road to autocracy is to manipulate the elections.

The corona virus has made it necessary to implement measures restricting the freedom om movement and assembly. While these are justifiable measures which will be revoked in most countries, the Hungarian government wants to use the state of emergency powers in ways that violate civil rights also after the Corona crisis is over.

These developments are deeply worrying. Russia under Putin provides a horrifying example of how autocratic leaders abuse their powers at the expense of human rights.

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Corruption is stronger in autocratic countries.

Spoiler: Corruption is cancer. It incurs welfare losses by distorting households’ and firms’ consumption and investment decisions. It increases inequality and environmental damages. It reduces trust between people and between people and public authorities.

It is lower in democracies with a free press and an independent judiciary. It is and was higher in autocratic countries. It is lower in market economies. Socialist countries are and were also autocratic, and corruption is and was pervasive in these countries. Corruption is weaker in former socialist countries that have become more democratic.

EU makes a difference. Corruption is higher in non-EU former Soviet republics and East-European countries. But once inside EU, Member States can again turn autocratic and become more corrupt.

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Yellow vests without a case.

Spoiler: The Yellow Vests’ claims that inequality in France is increasing are not justified. Wages constitute the most important share of total incomes and real earnings per capita kept growing despite the Financial crisis. Nor did labour shares in total GDP decrease and real wages increased more than labour productivity. And no indicators indicate that inequality has increased.

In fact, France also has one of the most generous welfare programs in the OECD which hasn’t prevented the Kremlin to spread lies and pay people to demonstrate and riot.

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