Giacomo Magistretti, Marco Tabellini, 20 September 2021

Can democracy be exported? This column uses a large cross-country dataset from 1960 to 2015 to show that, while the ‘top-down’ imposition of political institutions is not desirable and rarely successful, democracy can indeed be ‘exported’ – from more democratic to less democratic countries – through repeated trade interactions. The finding suggests that economic integration might be advantageous to less democratic countries not only directly by fostering GDP growth, but also indirectly by favouring the transition to democracy and the socioeconomic and political benefits associated with it.

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