thomas friedman likes the explanation of acemoglu (that’s
turkish armenian!) and robinson:
“Nations thrive when they develop ‘inclusive’ political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become ‘extractive’ and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.
“‘Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few,’ they write….”
uh huh. ok.
so, how you gonna get these “inclusive” institutions up and running in a place like … oh … egypt? in other words, how do you get from point a (‘extractive’ institutions) to point b (‘inclusive’ institutions)? a&r suggest ‘just build it and they will come’:
“Why is Egypt so much poorer than the United States? What are the constraints that keep Egyptians from becoming more prosperous? Is the poverty of Egypt immutable, or can it be eradicated? A natural way to start thinking about this is to look at what the Egyptians themselves are saying about the problems they face and why they rose up against the Mubarak regime…. Egyptians and Tunisians both saw their economic problems as being fundamentally caused by their lack of political rights….
“To Egyptians, the things that have held them back include an ineffective and corrupt state and a society where they cannot use their talent, ambition, ingenuity, and what education they can get. But they also recognize that the roots of these problems are political. All the economic impediments they face stem from the way political power in Egypt is exercised and monopolized by a narrow elite. This, they understand, is the first thing that has to change….
“In this book we’ll argue that the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, not most academics and commentators, have the right idea. In fact, Egypt is poor precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that have organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it, such as the $70 billion fortune apparently accumulated by ex-president Mubarak. The losers have been the Egyptian people, as they only too well understand.
“We’ll show that this interpretation of Egyptian poverty, the people’s interpretation, turns out to provide a general explanation for why poor countries are poor. Whether it is North Korea, Sierra Leone, or Zimbabwe, we’ll show that poor countries are poor for the same reason that Egypt is poor. Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. We’ll show that to understand why there is such inequality in the world today we have to delve into the past and study the historical dynamics of societies. We’ll see that the reason that Britain is richer than Egypt is because in 1688, Britain (or England, to be exact) had a revolution that transformed the politics and thus the economics of the nation. People fought for and won more political rights, and they used them to expand their economic opportunities. The result was a fundamentally different political and economic trajectory, culminating in the Industrial Revolution….“
ok. i haven’t read (or, rather, listened) to this book — and i probably ain’t gonna — but i’ll betcha (*hbd chick rummages through her purse*) 98¢ and a bus token that these guys haven’t tried to figure out WHY in the seventeenth century the ENGLISH (note not ALL the peoples of britain) “fought for and won more political rights” which they then used “to expand their economic opportunities.” what was it about this particular group of people at this particular time that enabled them to join together en masse to demand greater political rights and freedoms for ALL the people (men) in the country?
why should the english in england and later in the americas behave so unlike nearly every other group on the planet and become all hot and bothered about the rights of individuals in society? why should they start to have screwy notions like ‘everybody is created equal’ and that each man (and, later, woman) is endowed with ‘unalienable rights’? and how on earth are we going to get the egyptians … and the north koreans and the sierra leoneans and the zimbabweans and everyone else … to act like the english? to rise up and demand political rights and to create all these inclusive institutions? to ALL work TOGETHER towards a COMMON goal.
because, surely, that must be the order required: to find out what made the english do what they did and then recreate those circumstances in all these other places.
apart from all the usual sorts of hbd characteristics required to produce an advanced society (like intelligence), you all know what i’m gonna say is needed. and my solution is not something that will work overnight.
and egyptians are a long, long way away from being anything like the english in terms of genetic relatedness to one another. nope. they are much more like the people in iraq who anthropologist robin fox described thusly [pg. 62]:
“For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunni, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the region, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.“
voting in egypt — also a society based on extended-families and clans — runs along clan-lines, too:
“‘Tribe, family, and religion—this is how people vote here,’ said Micheil Fayek, a candidate in Fayoum governorate, which includes Tomiya, for the liberal-leaning, but pro-military Wafd Party….
“‘Egyptian Election is based on individuals with strong tribal and family connections rather than on ideologies or programs of parties, and the only exception to this is the Islamist voters,” said Mr. Mahmoud, the head of the Hurriya Party, which includes ex-Mubarak regime members from around the country and who is also a candidate from a prominent family from southern Egypt. “It doesn’t it matter if I was a part of the ruling regime. Even if I was a member of the Israeli Likud, I would still win.’”
a&r’s solution to poverty in egypt is to simply get the egyptians to create inclusive institutions, but this will not work because, as things stand today, egyptian society is not structured on inclusive institutions. it is structured on exclusive families and clans which, unlike a rotary club, you can’t just join — you’ve got to be born into them. and egyptians are not going to give these up any time soon because they are just too inbred. oh, there are probably some rather outbred egyptian urbanites in cairo who are ready for a modern society based on liberal democracy (for what that’s worth), but most egyptians are not those people.
and most of the rest of the world is like iraq and egypt in one way or another. almost everywhere except, due to some curious twists of history, northwest europe.
most economists just don’t get it ’cause they don’t think of humans as biological creatures. i’m gonna write a book one day and i’m gonna title it: Why Economists Fail.
see also: Egypt’s families remain electoral forces to reckon with — really, don’t miss it!
previously: “hard-won democracy”
update 04/14: see also not the revolution they’re looking for
(note: comments do not require an email. eg. the abaza family of egypt.)