There are limits to democracy. Democracy needs constitutionalism, law and order, and a middle class civil society. Much of the Third World lacks these things and get caught in a vicious cycle of autocracy and illiberal democracy.

Democracy promotion projects, as favored by neo-cons and liberal internationalists, continually encounter this limitation without changing their strategy.

In Democracy and Development, Adam Przeworski found a very strong correlation between democratic success and per capita income.
If the per capita income is at least $6,000, then a Democracy will not revert to dictatorships.
If the per capita income is under $3,000, then democracies will likely fail unless it rapidly raises the per capita income.

He also found that raising per capital incomes does not automatically lead to democracies. Authoritarian governments who transition their societies to prosperity can remain in power. We are seeing this today with the cases of Singapore, China, and other Authoritarian capitalists.

Przeworski relied heavily on game theory to describe transitions to democracy. Political leaders think strategically. This means that a healthy and diverse civil society limits the power of the government even more than constitutions or opposition parties. In a manner of speaking, he rediscovered James Madison’s Thesis in Federalist 10.

Social Democrats, for instance, could not win elections if they represented only the narrow working class interests – simply because there aren’t enough workers. Socialists needed to become a multi-class party to win elections, which meant, in practice, they governed more like Liberals than Communists. Democratic Reformism worked better for workers than violent revolution. But this only occured in the wealthier industrial societies. The European “Socialists” today represent the Middle Class, because there is hardly any working class members left.

The concept of a Liberal Constitutional Democracy requires a Middle Class, or at least the expectation of a Middle Class. Liberal Democracy seeks to protect individual’s autonomy from coercion from any source – ranging from the domestic government, foreign government, and non-state actors. The Middle Class, perhaps, simply have more to defend.

Poorer societies lack the civil society needed for democracy. They lack security, law and order. The lack of safety is bad enough. They also lack legal contract and property rights which stunt economic development. Authoritarian governments encourage corruption instead of good public policy.

Civil society is weakened, corrupted, and unconcerned with ideas of liberalism.

Simply pushing elections on these societies results in Illiberal Democracies.

Fareed Zakaria:

in the West, democracy has meant liberal democracy — a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but also by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. In fact, this latter bundle of freedoms — what might be termed constitutional liberalism — is theoretically different and historically distinct from democracy.

Arguably, elections are the least important component of true democracy.

Middle Class societies have secured their basic needs, and their “Liberal” ideas are founded on a distrust of power. This is absent in the Third World, where many people view the government as a mechanism to steal what they want. Democracy becomes a means of wielding power and punishing enemies.

Illiberal democracies have elections without freedoms.

Today, 118 of the world’s 193 countries are democratic, encompassing a majority of its people (54.8 percent, to be exact), a vast increase from even a decade ago. In this season of victory, one might have expected Western statesmen and intellectuals to go one further than E. M. Forster and give a rousing three cheers for democracy. Instead there is a growing unease at the rapid spread of multiparty elections across south-central Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, perhaps because of what happens after the elections. Popular leaders like Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Argentina’s Carlos Menem bypass their parliaments and rule by presidential decree, eroding basic constitutional practices.

Zakaria points out that half of the “democracies” in the world are illiberal. Some are sham governments where the President wields almost authoritarian power. Some are religious theocracies, others are radical populists. Many fail and turn into outright dictatorships.

Zakaria emphasizes the concepts behind Constitutionalism are more important than elections. For that reason, I want to re-emphasize the role of Constitutional Monarchism as the guardian parent of Constitutional Democracy.

Democracies were not fated to win – especially seeing how much difficulty the rest of the world faces. The road to liberal democracy historically was through constitutional monarchies. Constitutional Monarchs across Continental Europe set the foundation for future democracy by fostering a Middle Class while protecting them against security threats. Gradually, these monarchs transferred power to Parliaments as the society grew wealthier and more secure.

Constitutional Monarchism continues to be one of the best paths to democracy in the world today. The newest Liberal Democracies, such as Spain, were mothered by monarchs like King Juan Carlos. The Kings defended their Middle Class and Parliament from threats by radicals, such as fascists and communists, while slowly giving Parliament more powers over taxation. Once a Parliament had the power to tax, it grew more powerful than the Monarch. The Monarch retained the role as a symbolic “head of state” – a symbol of national unity that is greater than the parliamentary bickering.

A slow gradual transfer of power to parliaments keeps society stable without the abuses of power seen in Authoritarian regimes and Illiberal Democracies.

A radical and revolutionary democracy does not lead to constitutionalism. It leads to vengence against a hated class, then it turns into an authoritarian dictatorship.