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The way to prosperity leeds through inclusive political institutions
am 8. September 2012
The central thesis of the book is quite simple: Prosperity is achieved when economical institutions are inclusive (allowing all citizens to participate and compete in markets under fair conditions) These inclusive economic institutions require inclusive political institutions, which allow different groups to participate in the political decision-making process. If that is not the case, if small elites are allowed to dominate politics, then they will manipulate economic institutions to their own benefit, extracting wealth from the other groups. Hence the labelling of these institutions as extractive. This thesis is elaborated on the 460 pages of the book, and the historical pathways of different societies leading to either inclusive or extractive institutions are analyzed.
Examples acrually range from England to Kongo, from Australia to Argentina, from the old Maya Civilisation to modern day China. It is a dizzying array of examples, and occasionally one has the feeling that the historical events described in the book must have been more complex Therefore occasionally I have wondered whether these events really fit so perfectly into the line of arguments, which the authors have developed.
And while they describe quite well what they understand as inclusive economic institutions (property rights, market access, 'level playing field' etc.) the definition of inclusive institutions remains a bit hazy. It's not democracy, but 'pluralism', 19th century Japan qualifies, Argentina does not.
ButI found it a very interesting and thought-provoking book, which I wholeheartedly recommend. As somebody who is working in the field of development I find it lamentable that development orthodoxy since the Eighties is completely dominated by economic prescriptions (which hardly have worked). The rediscovering of politics and policies (and institutions) as an important precondition for growth and development was long overdue. And even if reality is too complexe to be fully covered even on 460 pages, this book certainly provides a good starting point.