Do Foreign Investors Punish Democracy? Theory and Empirics, 1984–2001

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Jakobsen, Jo & Indra de Soysa (2006) Do Foreign Investors Punish Democracy? Theory and Empirics, 1984–2001, KYKLOS 59(3): 383–410.

Abstract: Some claim that when level of property rights protection is controlled, democracy lowers foreign direct investment (FDI) to developing countries (Li and Resnick 2003). We critically examine the theoretical claims of the pessimistic arguments and show that FDI responds to preferences of countries and that democracies have a clear preference for FDI given that the scarce factor – capital – will find it harder under democracy to seek rents by raising barriers to entry. On the other hand, labor (the abundant factor in developing countries) should profit from lower barriers to capital importation. We demonstrate conclusively that the most prominent pessimistic result on democracy in the literature is simply an artefact of sample size and testing procedure. We establish robust evidence suggesting that developing country democracies actually receive higher inflows of FDI, net of a number of control variables. Consistent with our view that host nations' attitudes are shaped by factor endowments, which in turn determine rent-seeking, we demonstrate that governments controlled by 'leftist' political parties also receive more FDI than 'centrist' or 'rightist' governments among democracies. Why this should be true is not obvious from a theory based on property rights risk alone. An extended sample of LDCs and a better operationalization show that property rights and democracy positively affect FDI. Our results suggest that globalization advances the fortunes of democracies in the developing world.


Indra de Soysa

Indra de Soysa

Professor of Political Science at NTNU