Category Archives: Review
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? (more…)
Fragile states have limited capacity to govern. They have few highly trained policymakers, few managers able to organize departments and ministries, and few officials able to implement decisions. They have very limited financial resources and little prospect (unless they have a lot of natural resources) of becoming self-sustaining anytime soon. Why then do we ask them to do so much?
far from any threshold of “good governance”; at their pace or average pace of progress it would take very (to infinitely) long to reach a threshold; even at very to extremely optimistic accelerations of the pace of progress . . . the time from fragile states to reach solid levels of governance is measured in decades, not years.
Yet, such countries are expected to do more or less everything much more developed countries do. They must deliver adequate public services to all their people, adopt and enforce an enormous number of laws and regulations, and meet international standards in a wide range of areas. If they receive substantial sums of foreign aid, they must deal with each donor on every project and meet all their specific requirements. Is any of this realistic? (more…)