One of the most contentious and politically significant debates in social science focuses on the relationship between economic policy and political regime. Social scientists and others continue to differ starkly over even the most fundamental issues.
An especially vigorous polemic swirls around whether measures that enhance the freedom of private economic actors do or do not promote democracy. This debate is immediately relevant to Russia's postcommunist experience. Like other postcommunist countries, Russia has undergone shifts in economic policy that may have shaped its trajectory of political regime change.
The closing pages of the previous chapter presented some evidence that economic freedom and democracy go together. But the matter requires more extensive consideration. The difficulty of measuring economic policy orientation, along with the possibility that the relationship between economic and political liberalism is different in established democracies from what it is elsewhere, suggest the need for closer analysis.
This chapter examines the influence of economic policy orientation on democracy and democratization. The first section reviews the theoretical debate. The second examines the empirical evidence in cross-national perspective. The third addresses potential limitations in the analysis. The fourth considers the logic of the link between liberal economic policy and political regime. The fifth and sixth sections focus on how economic policy has influenced political regime change in Russia. The chapter's main finding is that economic and political liberalism are closely linked and that economic liberalization facilitates democratization in Russia as in the world as a whole.