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The Nonexistence of the cruel dilemma or the unlikely prosperity of the economic system of freedom in the absence of it


  • Eduardo Sanz-Arcega

    () (University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)


The controversial relationship between the political system and economic growth induced Bhagwati to coin the concept of cruel dilemma to illustrate the tension that may exist between the economic freedoms and the political homonyms. Thus, and since then, the economic-institutional empirical literature has tried to outline the effect of democracy on the sustained increase in income, with disparate results. However, the very absence of an undisputed conclusion also from the perspective of the history of economic ideas has led, to the best of our knowledge, to the fact that the preference for a political system or another to achieve economic prosperity may turn into an axiologically based argument. This fact would, therefore, endorse the incorporation to the emphasis of the discussion of a double analysis, factual and theoretical-economic –owing to the classical postulates on which the central doctrinal body of the discipline is founded–, whose conjunction with the crucial importance of institutions for economic growth seemed to hide, ultimately, a simple idea. Namely: the indissolubility, on a long-term basis, between economic success and democracy.

Suggested Citation

  • Eduardo Sanz-Arcega, 2013. "The Nonexistence of the cruel dilemma or the unlikely prosperity of the economic system of freedom in the absence of it," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1308, Asociacion Espa–ola de Historia Economica.
  • Handle: RePEc:ahe:dtaehe:1308

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    3. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
    4. Barro, Robert J, 1996. "Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
    5. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2003. "Institutions Don't Rule: Direct Effects of Geography on Per Capita Income," NBER Working Papers 9490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 2002. "Democracy and Development: Cruel Dilemma or Symbiotic Relationship," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 151-162, June.
    7. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, March.
    8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    9. Weingast, Barry R, 1995. "The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-31, April.
    10. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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    More about this item


    Cruel dilemma; economic liberties; political liberties; democracy; institutions; economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • E02 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Institutions and the Macroeconomy
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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