Southeast Asia: Minding the Gap Between Democracy and Governance

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 62-73
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The eleven countries of Southeast Asia vary widely by type of regime and quality of governance. Those that are the most democratic are not always the best governed, and the reverse is also true. Based on evidence from these countries, this essay explores two propositions—one normative, the other empirical. The normative argument is this: Good things ought to go together. Because democracy is more humane than dictatorship, democracy in Southeast Asia should also do a better job delivering security, welfare, and other public goods. The empirical argument, whose validity would bolster the normative one, is this: Good things do go together. Democracy and governance, however, do not co-vary in Southeast Asia. These two good things do not go together. Gaps exist, and they are worth minding, in theory and in practice.

About the Author

Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Program at Stanford University. His latest publications include “Mapping ASEAN’s Futures” in Contemporary Southeast Asia (August 2017) and a chapter in The South China Sea Disputes (edited by Yang Razali Kassim, 2017).

View all work by Donald K. Emmerson