With Iraq currently attempting to create a democratic political system, the success and sustainability of this effort comes into question. After having a dictatorship for so long, will the people have the necessary skill to maintain a democracy?
In Why Does Democracy Need Education? authors Edward L. Glaeser, Giacomo Paonzetto and Andrei Shleifer explore the connection between education and democracy. While past studies have shown a high correlation between civic activities and education, this article looks for the theoretical reasoning behind that correlation. Glaeser, Paonzetto and Shleifer offer three hypotheses to explain the correlation.
The indoctrination theory and the benefits theory both rejected by their inability to explain the active participation in politics. Where as the benefits theory does not account for suicide bombers, the indoctrination theory does not explain educationís influence in increasing participation across all types of groups.
The socialization hypothesisí main point is that social capital is essential for increasing human capital. When people attend school, they learn to be social creatures, to communicate efficiently, to work in teams and to curb anti-social tendencies. Once this skill set is acquired, engaging in social activities, such as politics, are not as difficult due to the affinity towards being part of the community. This helps overcome the problem of democracy: low incentives for supporters.
With the individual cost to support democracy lowered, educated people are also more likely to defend their democratic state against dictatorships and even revolt against dictatorships. In uneducated areas, the individual sees the high benefits for a select few created by dictatorships. Therefore, defending democracy is not worth the benefit the individual would receive. As education increases, the cost of defending declines, the spread between cost and payoff lessens and the individual can receive some benefit from his actions. A national increase in education creates group support that can defend from dictatorships and overthrow dictatorships.
Glaeser, et. al outline different historical references to highlight the durability of democracy in educated states. Because the variance of education levels makes a significant difference in the resilience of democracy, a range of examples where used. With enough education, such as occurred in the American Revolution, a group of people will be able to overthrow an anti-democracy government and stabilize a democracy for many years. However, it can also be the case that the education level is enough to start a democratic revolt, but not to keep the newly formed government from staying democratic, as happened in the English Revolution. Defending democracy from insider coups, executive aggrandizement and attacks from outsiders also depends greatly on education levels.
Although this paper strove to address the theoretical reasoning behind the link between education and democracy, the paper seemed disjointed and without enough focus. At first, the authors discuss theory, then they jump to models for determining theory, then to historical evidence. The flow of the paper is difficult to follow and the different sections were not connected enough. The historical evidence did not include enough of the socialization hypothesis presented in section three.
However, the most unfortunate part of this paper was the lack of reference to the present issues that relate exactly to this topic. Current events, such as the Iraqi transition to democracy, are great opportunities for Glaeser, etc. to help discuss the future for Iraq and other similar situations. A one-line reference does not do the topic justice for an academic paper discussing that very issue. By looking extensively at the past and only briefly at the present and future, the authors miss an opportunity. A reader might question whether the curt dealing of present issues signifies the authorís lack of confidence in their own work.