There’s a lot of nostalgia for the Musharraf years in Pakistan these days. With a blithering idiot for a president, Pakistanis are questioning if democracy can ever be viable in their long forsaken country. For most political scientists, the debate over democracy versus dictatorship is a theoretical one; for Pakistanis, and many in the developing world, the debate is palpable, even material. Enter Ghazia Aslam and Wasim Q. Malik, two academics, who try to flesh out the debate–and complicate it a little more.

They argue that the literature review on the debate is inconclusive. In fact, they think it’s largely irrelevant. What matters are institutions:

We can therefore conclude that it is the presence of specific institutions, and not the form of government, that affects economic development and access to basic facilities. These institutions can be established in both democratic and non-democratic regimes and there is no reason to believe that all the democracies would establish these institutions.

As a liberal democrat, I firmly believe that democracies are best capable of providing the institutional infrastructure to promote individual and social well-being, but I’m willing to concede that matters aren’t always so black-and-white as I hope they are.