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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Remembering the Bad Old Days: Human Rights, Economic Conditions, and Democratic Performance in Transitional Regimes


Using the natural laboratory of 18 post-communist Central and Eastern European countries, this article presents a basic model for democratic transition, specifically testing two alternative explanations for the degree of citizen satisfaction with the performance of their fledgling democracies: 1) virtues of omission, which include bad actions from which the state refrains, namely violations of individual human rights, and 2) virtues of commission, which include positive state actions, in particular actions enhancing economic well-being. The findings clearly indicate that, during the transition period, citizens' sense of the condition of human rights is consistently more important than are perceived economic prospects as predictors of democratic performance.

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