Found in 2 comments on Hacker News
This is a hot research topic right now in the social sciences. The general theme is that democratic institutions (transparency, professionalism, corruption-resistance) are probably more important at first than actual democracy.

The "Asian Tiger" economies -- South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan -- all started ramping up their growth under extremely authoritarian governments which then liberalized once they had reached a certain level of prosperity.

The good news is we can already test this hypothesis by looking at the countries that already enforce compulsory voting [1]:

  North Korea
  Pitcairn Islands
  Swiss canton of Schaffhausen
Which one of these is a democratic paradise that the author would like to emulate?

Australia is probably the best of the bunch but it's demography and geography are not comparable to the US, a lot of things that work there don't translate here and vice versa.

The author theorizes:

> When the only question voters face is whose ideas they prefer, politicians will naturally focus on developing and debating real world ideas rather than fantasies, and democracy can live up to its moral and practical potential.

O RLY? Is that the situation in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador? TL;DR: No.

This article also presumes the bedrock of democracy is elections, but in fact that's just one dimension and not necessarily the most important one -- rule of law, civil institutions, a functioning state are all equally if not more important than the selection of specific leaders.

Good book on this topic:


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