The world’s xth largest democracy


The News Agency

Editorial Executive Committee

Minutes of the Meeting

Initial presentation by the Chief Editor: We seem to have fallen into the habit of referring to countries as “the fifth largest democratic country” or “eighth largest democracy.” Doing that was probably a mistake, an editorial oversight, but there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it now except to guard against such mistakes in the future.

The current question we have to settle is: Can we justify the democratic country size rankings we have published if we’re challenged? Can we do it, that is, without looking like fools? For example, we recently referred to Indonesia, in articles about the presidential election, as “the world’s third largest democracy.” That means there are two, and only two, democratic countries that are larger. Can we defend that position?


The Asia Editor: From memory, the biggest populations, in order, are China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and then either Pakistan or Bangladesh. Most of them are in my portfolio, so I especially need some clear guidance.

The South America Editor: So, if we’re to be consistent, an article about Brazil should say it’s the world’s fourth largest democracy, if that’s relevant. And assuming that there hasn’t been another military coup before the article appears.

The Europe Editor: There are two problems here. One is determining population size. If you total the EU population, I think Europe would probably be the third largest country. The other problem is that there’s no necessary connection between population and democracy.

The North America Editor: I think we need to get back more specifically to the Chief Editor’s important question: If Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy, who are the first two?

The Asia Editor: Pretty clearly, that would be China and India.

The Africa Editor: Are they both democracies?

The Asia Editor: I suppose so. They have elections, don’t they?

The Oceania Editor: But is there a real opposition that ever wins?

The North America Editor: Is there anywhere?

The Antarctica Editor: Is global warming likely to affect this question in the short term?

The Chief Editor: Are we agreed then? The world’s largest democracies, in order, are China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and then either Pakistan or Bangladesh – we’ll need to research the latest population figures. Can anyone think of a reasoned objection to that list? No one?

There being unanimous agreement, the meeting was adjourned.

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