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12/07/2016

Can Russia Become a Democracy Through Food?

Over the past year, we have heard lots of talk about forming a stronger bond with our nemesis Russia to better control world stability, and how its government hacked various governmental and personal email accounts – and how for the most part we've felt helpless. That might just change, as a new study published in Science Daily, "How Food Affects Political Regimes," presented at the World Association for Public Opinion Research, in Moscow, in mid -September, might give us a clue just how to combat these threats in an even more powerful and long-tern way. 

This report shows “how better nutrition can have a lot to do with the transition to democracy: the more protein-rich, high-quality foods appear in a society's diet, the higher the likelihood of democratic reforms. Apparently, a richer diet is associated with an increase in the middle class, which tends towards economic and political independence and democracy-fostering values.”. 

One could argue that as the American quality of diet has diminished, so has our middle class. 

Andrey Shcherbak, senior research fellow, Laboratory for Comparative Social Research of the Higher School of Economics, has found, based on a cross-country comparative study using data on 157 countries, that a change in people's eating habits can serve as a predictor of impending political change. His findings are published in the working paper "A Recipe for the Democracy? The Spread of the European Diet and Political Change,"

Contrary to what established literature often suggests, Shcherbak has found that improved nutrition precedes democracy, rather than the other way around. According to Shcherbak, once people start consuming a wide variety of foods with an emphasis on animal protein, instead of mostly bread and cereals, democratic change is likely to follow.

The author's other conclusion that runs counter to conventional wisdom is that improved nutrition is even more important for political change than economic factors such as income growth and liberalization of trade. 

In a report in Munchies, Shcherbak is quoted as saying that a better diet — one perhaps achieved through growing wealth and trade with other countries — leads to greater earnings and a growing, better-educated middle class, and a middle class brings democracy.   First, you get the dairy and booze, he says; then you get the right to vote.