Is economic development conducive to political democracy? Does democracy foster or hinder material welfare? These two questions are examined by looking at the experience of 135 countries between 1950 and 1990. Descriptive information, statistical analyses, and historical narratives are interwoven to gain an understanding of the dynamic of political regimes and their impact on economic development and other aspects of material welfare. The findings, several most surprising, dispel any notion of a trade-off between democracy and development. Economic development does not generate democracies but democracies are much more likely to survive in wealthy societies. Political regimes have no impact on the growth of total national incomes, while political instability affects growth only in dictatorships. Per capita incomes grow faster in democracies since population increases faster under dictatorships. In general, political regimes have more of an effect on demography than on economics.