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Raising the Bar on Polyarchy : Measures of Social Democracy in Latin America

Open Panel

Abstract

As nations like Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia add equality and distribution to the objectives of democratization in Latin America, new metrics may be called for to help measure changes beyond "electoral democracies," toward a more substantive definition of the term, with a thicker meaning which may rebalance the trade-off between liberty and equality. This exploratory paper reviews the late 20th Century debate on defining and measuring democracy, but also sets out to consider new measures more appropriate to objectives of new democracies worldwide, but parting from the democracies of the "new left" in Latin America, which have most powerfully articulated new objectives for democracy and democratization. The paper establishes new quantitative indicators of democracy (along the lines of Munck''s work), but going further, by suggesting an indicator of "social democracy'' using size of state (measured as pct of GDP), distribution (ratio of top quintile to bottom quintile) as well as the usual electoral definitions, and discuss the implications of maximalist measures for social democracy rather than settling for minimalist "polyarchy" and "electoral democracy" as in the past.