When the threat of war may be good for us

So Jeffrey Sachs doesn’t entirely agree with Acemoglu and Robinson in their diagnosis as to Why Nations Fail.

“The authors incorrectly assume that authoritarian elites are necessarily hostile to economic progress. In fact, dictators have sometimes acted as agents of deep economic reforms, often because international threats forced their hands.”

Sachs goes on to give a few examples, none of which post-date the fall of the Berlin Wall and Fukuyama’s End of History, unless you count the Chinese miracle, but my understanding is that that has its roots earlier. With the exception of a couple of relatively small and particularly unstable bits of West and Central Africa, I doubt that many dictators today are that fearful that economic stagnation could lead to their defenestration at the hands of their neighbours’ armed forces. Which leads me to wonder, could the collective enforcement of world peace by the UN and various regional groupings (EU, ASEAN, AU etc) have a negative impact on economic development? (It also means that both Sachs and Acemoglu and Robinson could be right.) Put alternatively, has removing the threat of invasion removed one of those critical feedback loops that Owen Barder talks about when he describes development as an outcome of a complex system? (An argument I highly commend, check out the podcast too.)


3 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve found this to be a really good question. I also am not sure I understand everything that it’s making me think about. But it is something I will definitely come back to. Thank you.


  2. […] of MJ’s posts at Bottom Up Thinking has been on my mind for a while. Like, on-to-do-list-for-several-weeks type […]


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