A strand of political economy literature expects democratic governments to be more effective than their authoritarian peers in the management of catastrophic situations (famines, pandemics). The ongoing COVID 19 pandemic offers an interesting setting to test this expectation, in particular to explore whether democracies are more preventive and therefore massify SARS-CoV-2 testing. Analyzing data from 85 countries, the more democratic a country is, not necessarily the more tests it runs. The relationship is rather curvilinear, best described by a U, with low and high levels of democracy associated with the massification of testing, and medium levels associated with low testing. Besides testing democracies and non-testing authoritarianisms, there are testing authoritarianisms —basically rentier states— and non-testing democracies; anocracies tend to be non-testing. The variance in testing seems to be also partially explained by GDP per capita and government effectiveness, but surprisingly unrelated to the length of the pandemic in a country.
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