Remembering the Bad Old Days: Human Rights, Economic Conditions, and Democratic Performance in Transitional Regimes

Abstract

Using the natural laboratory of 18 post-communist Central and Eastern European countries, this article presents a basic model for democratic transition, specifically testing two alternative explanations for the degree of citizen satisfaction with the performance of their fledgling democracies: 1) virtues of omission, which include bad actions from which the state refrains, namely violations of individual human rights, and 2) virtues of commission, which include positive state actions, in particular actions enhancing economic well-being. The findings clearly indicate that, during the transition period, citizens' sense of the condition of human rights is consistently more important than are perceived economic prospects as predictors of democratic performance. Hans-Dieter Klingemann and Richard I. Hofferbert Remembering the Bad Old Days: Human Rights, Economic Conditions, and Democratic Performance in Transitional Regimes [Potsdam, July 1992: A conversation between one of the present authors and his friend, a 58 year-old carpenter and resident of former East Germany, who had lived for 28 years across the street from the wrong side of the Wall. He had just lost his job.] Q: How would you compare life today with conditions before the Wall opened up? A: It was crap before. It's still crap, but with sugar on it. Q: Would you want to go back? A: Are you nuts? Of course not!

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Klingemann1998RememberingTB, title={Remembering the Bad Old Days: Human Rights, Economic Conditions, and Democratic Performance in Transitional Regimes}, author={H Klingemann and Richard I. Hofferbert}, year={1998} }