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Vested Interests

Quote of the Week: George Packer

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Journalists become reliably useful to governments, corporations, or armed groups only when they betray their calling.” 

- George Packer, an American journalist, novelist, and playwright. He is well- known for writing on U.S. foreign policy in the The New Yorker and for his book The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq.

#9 from 2012: 'Why Nations Fail': The Constitutionalists Were Right All Along

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on May 1, 2012

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have produced a magisterial book: ‘Why Nations Fail’. If you are interested in governance, nay, if you are interested in development, you should read it. I picked it up the week it was published and I could not put it down until it was done. That is how powerful and well-written it is. Yet it is over 500 pages long. In what follows, I am going to focus on what I liked about it and the thoughts it provoked in me as I read it.

First, I admire the simplicity and power of the thesis: what the historical evidence suggests is that nations with inclusive political and economic institutions are capable of sustained growth. Nations with extractive political and economic institutions are not. End of story. Even when an authoritarian state/regime appears to engineer economic growth for a while, it will hit a limit soon enough. Why? Human creativity, human inventiveness and necessary creative destruction of old ways of doing things cannot happen in authoritarian environments. Vested interests are able all too easily to block threatening entrants to the economy; property rights are not secure and so on. Those who control political institutions use their power to extract surpluses in often brutal ways. Key quote:

Quote of the Week: Václav Havel

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our Being as humans, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed, whether it be ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization, will be unavoidable. If we are no longer threatened by world war or by the danger that the absurd mountains of accumulated nuclear weapons might blow up the world, this does not mean that we have definitively won. We are in fact far from definite victory.

We are still a long way from that 'family of man;' in fact, we seem to be receding from the ideal rather than drawing closer to it. Interests of all kinds: personal, selfish, state, national, group and, if you like, company interests still considerably outweigh genuinely common and global interests. We are still under the sway of the destructive and thoroughly vain belief that man is the pinnacle of creation, and not just a part of it, and that therefore everything is permitted. There are still many who say they are concerned not for themselves but for the cause, while they are demonstrably out for themselves and not for the cause at all. We are still destroying the planet that was entrusted to us, and its environment. We still close our eyes to the growing social, ethnic and cultural conflicts in the world. From time to time we say that the anonymous megamachinery we have created for ourselves no longer serves us but rather has enslaved us, yet we still fail to do anything about it.

Quote of the Week: John Kay

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Public  opinion, well briefed and properly marshalled, is a decisive force in public policy. But since there are many issues in public debate, attention to any one is necessarily transient. The attention of vested interests to their own concerns, however, is permanent."

-- John Kay, Don’t listen to the lobbyists: they never go away, Financial Times, September 21, 2011

Deliberation and Self-Interest

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

A reader of this blog recently pointed out that "deliberation is infused with issues of power, self-interest, bargaining ... it seems that the position now endorsed by the hard core of deliberative theorists presumes levels of equality and so forth that presuppose many hard development issues already are surmounted or (minimally) addressed." We thank this reader for pointing to an interesting article in the Journal of Political Philosophy by Jane Mansbridge and colleagues, which addresses issues of self-interest and power in deliberative democracy and calls for accepting (constrained) self-interest as integral part of democratic deliberation.