This post is by Brad Setser and Paul Swartz of the Council on Foreign Relations.
No doubt today’s GDP release will attract the lion’s share of the econoblogosphere’s attention. But sometimes it is a good idea to counter-program.
Paul Swartz, I and others at the Council’s Center for Geoeconomic Studies have been – at the prodding of our boss – trying to come up with indicators that capture “Geoeconomic” risk. Or at least to develop measures some key “geoeconomic” concepts, with geoeconomics defined as anything that touches on both the economy and geopolitics. An example might be the gapminder chart we did for the Council’s multimedia spectacular on the financial crisis that touches on the question of whether the G-7 still brings together the world’s most economically powerful countries.
I am not sure that we have succeeded, though I do think we have come up with some interesting ideas – ideas, though, that need to be stress tested with a bit of external scrutiny. Call this a very rough working draft.
One idea has been to look at what share of the world’s total economic output is produced by democratic countries. To do this, we weighted output by a measure of a country’s political openness (from the Polity IV project). A low score implies that all of the world’s output is produced in countries that are not democracies. A high score means all the output is produced by countries that are well-functioning democracies. And a score in the middle means something in the middle – either there are a lot of economically large democracies and a lot of economically large autocracies, or that a lot of global output is produced by countries that aren’t total autocracies nor perfect democracies.
The results are interesting; the end of the Cold war increased the share of output produced by the world’s democracies. But China’s ability to grow rapidly with significantly democraticizing has made the global economy a bit less “democratic” (in the sense that less of the world’s output is produced by democracies).
That implies that if current economic trends – meaning the gap between the rate of growth between autocratic and more democratic countries — continue, the share of global output produced by democracies will decline over time.