↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ballots and Bullets

These days no self-respecting government wants to present itself on the world stage without the legitimacy of a democratic mantle. Elections are now de rigueur, even if many a despot rejects the idea of actually abiding by voter preferences. The result is an embrace of “democracy” by such authoritarian leaders as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria and Mwai Kibaki of Kenya. They all have used some combination of violence, fraud and repression to ensure that elections do not threaten their grasp on power.


A professor of economics at Oxford, Collier examines the governments of what, in an earlier book, he called the “bottom billion” — the world’s 58 most impoverished countries. He undertakes this daunting task by summarizing an array of sophisticated economic and social science research, all in a folksy, accessible style. For those who want statistical chapter and verse, he refers readers to his Web site.

Collier’s primary conclusion: democracy, in the superficial, election-focused form that tends to prevail in these countries, “has increased political violence instead of reducing it.” Without rules, traditions, and checks and balances to protect minorities, distribute resources fairly and subject officials to the law, these governments lack the accountability and legitimacy to discourage rebellion. The quest for power becomes a “life-and-death struggle” in which “the contestants are driven to extremes.”


Post a Comment

<< Home