The Limited Access Order (LAO) conceptual framework is an excellent way to understand why developing countries work the way they do, analyze their political and economic dynamics, and formulate policy ideas appropriate to their context. Its focus on power, violence, rents, and elite bargains provides far greater explanatory and predictive power than the standard template that uses developed countries as a model for how countries ought to work. As such, everyone in the development field working in a policymaking role should make use of it.
Created by Nobel Prize winner Douglass North, John Wallis, Steven Webb, and Barry Weingast, the LAO framework argues that:
No one, including the state, has a monopoly on violence . . . An LAO reduces violence by forming a dominant coalition containing all individuals and groups with sufficient access to violence . . . The dominant coalition creates cooperation and order by limiting access to valuable resources – land, labor, and capital – or access [to] and control of valuable activities – such as contract enforcement, property right enforcement, trade, worship, and education – to elite groups . . . The creation and distribution of rents therefore secures elite loyalty to the system, which in turn protects rents, limits violence, and prevents disorder most of the time. Continue reading
In his landmark study of the civic traditions of Italy, Robert Putnam showed how differences in the norms and patterns of behavior that drove societies in northern and southern Italy had profound influence on development outcomes, governance, innovation, and the prospects for democracy. As he explained,
Some regions of Italy, we discover, are blessed with vibrant networks and norms of civic engagement, while others are cursed with vertically structured politics, a social life of fragmentation and isolation, and a culture of distrust. These differences in civic life turn out to play a key role in explaining institutional success.
These patterns are deep-seated, and can be traced back as much as a millennium. Governments had come and gone. Economies had evolved tremendously. Lives had changed enormously, especially in the last few decades. But the basic underlying dynamic that drove how people interacted with each other, how officials behaved, and how government acted retained an important essence that had deep influence. Path dependence was hard to break. Why? Continue reading
The ability to nurture and manage a wide variety of large-scale organizations is essential to any country’s ability to promote economic development. In fact, in some ways economic development is simply a product of a society’s growing capacity to create strong organizations that serve an ever-enlarging number of purposes.
Only with a sizable number of medium- and large-sized companies can economies generate broad-based, employment-generating growth. Only with well-managed government institutions—which often contain tens of thousands if not more people—can states provide a wide range of public services to millions of people and across large territories. And only big (or, at least, extremely well managed) NGOs are likely to have the breadth of coverage to make a difference in the lives of a significant proportion of a population.
Yet while energizing economies, increasing employment, improving governance, and enhancing civil society are all prioritized by development actors, little thought is put into what would enable societies to better grow and manage organizations despite their obvious importance to all of these objectives. Continue reading
By Paul Harvey, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium
Almost whenever you read anything about fragile states, the introduction notes that, ‘no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal’. This is a quote from the overview from the 2011 World Development Report on conflict, security and development. It seems to be an elaboration of a quote from the main body of the report that is subtly but importantly different. ‘No low-income, fragile state has achieved a single MDG, and few are expected to meet targets by 2015.’ Continue reading