Robert D. Woodberry of the University of Texas at Austin has written the interesting and provocative “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy”. Below I’ve C&P’d the Abtract. The general text is every bit as dry. I’m not so sure that I care much about all the statistics, but the theological and political implications are important.
* * *
Much of what we think we know about the origins and spread of liberal democracy needs to be
reevaluated. Enlightenment movements seldom fostered stable democracy outside of Protestant majority
societies. Moreover, arguments based on resource distribution do not convincingly explain why some
societies developed ―democracy-friendly‖ distributions of resources or accurately describe the cleavages
that often led elites to disperse political power to lower classes. This article demonstrates historically and
statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) influenced both the distribution of resources in societies
and the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world.
CPs influenced democracy directly by shaping democratic theory and institutions and indirectly by
creating religious incentives for elites to disperse economic and political power. CPs wanted people to
read the Bible, thus they initiated mass education and mass printing. Moreover, organizational forms and
tactics that CPs developed to spread their faith proved useful for sustaining long-term, nonviolent social
movements. CPs used these new organizational forms and tactics to transform their home societies and to
moderate colonialism. When faced with CP competition, other groups copied these innovations. Without
CP competition, they did not and these innovations were delayed for decades, even centuries. Thus, CP
competition drastically increased ordinary people‘s access to education, printed material, news, and
organizational resources – whether or not they converted to Protestantism. Moreover, the reform
movements spurred by CPs increased the rule of law and fostered the creation of early political parties.
Together these factors increased the probability of stable democratic transitions.
Statistically, the historic prevalence of Protestant missionaries explains about half the variation in
democracy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. This association is consistent in different
continents and sub-samples, is robust to dozens of controls, and remains despite instrumenting Protestant
missions in 9 different ways. Moreover, most of the variables that dominate current statistical research
about democracy become insignificant after controlling for Protestant missions.
# # #
For the whole article: