POLA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter Cooperation and institutions in industrial nation states & agrarian societies : Internal Revenue Service, Belgian Overseas Colonies, Tropical Africa
ChapterCooperation and institutions in industrial nation states & agrarian societies
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POLA02 - Cooperation and institutions in industrial nation states & agrarian societies
Acemoglu, Daron. “Root Causes: A Historical Approach to Assessing the Role of Institutions in Economic
Development,” Finance & Development 40 (June 2003), 27-30.
The main argument presented in Daron Acemoglu’s article Root causes: A historical approach to assessing
the role of institutions in economic development is that “some societies have good institutions that encourage
investment in machinery, human capital, and better technologies, and, consequently, these countries achieve
The main pieces of evidence that support this thesis is that good institutions give equal opportunity for very
broad portions of the society so that individuals have the chance to make investments in human capital, and
partake in these economic activities that are productive. That being said, apparently geography does also play
a role in this. Its influence on the economic development is due to the fact that “climate, and ecology of a
society shape both its technology and the incentives of its inhabitants and it emphasizes forces of nature as a
primary factor in the poverty of nations”, but how?
Some counter arguments stated by the author in this article were that the “Europeans set up exclusively
extractive institutions, exemplified by the Belgian colonization of the Congo, slave plantations in the
Caribbean, and forced labour systems in the mines of Central America. These institutions neither protected
the property rights of regular citizens nor constrained the power of elites.” In other words, they did not give
their citizens the proper protection of their property, and failed to give them the chance to make investments
in human capital and participate in the economic activities.
Finally, according to the author, the thesis is very important because according to the geography hypothesis
discussed in the thesis, it cannot be that the reason for its influence is due to the climate, ecology, or disease
environments of the tropical areas that have condemned these countries to poverty today, but that these “same
areas with the same climate, ecology, and disease environment were already richer than the temperature areas
500 years ago”. Thus, there is no evidence whatsoever that any of these factors are supported by the
geography thesis of any sort.
MAIN POINT: Good institutions don't automatically form
Englebert, Pierre. “Precolonial Institutions, Post-colonial States and Economic Development in Tropical Africa,”
Political Quarterly Research 53 (1), p. 7-36.
Pre-colonial institutions (development)
Social capital & ethnic homogeneity = explanatory power in Africa
The results state that 1) reforms which are limited to the economic sphere have failed to address the root
cause of Africa’s stagnation, and 2) they hint that political reforms which focus on democratization should
not be expected to lift political constraints to growth in Africa
Stability of institutions & economic growth in Africa (main purpose of this essay)
Neo-patrimonial policies = FAIL
Kollman, Ken. The American Political System (W.W. Norton, 2011), Ch. 1.
Politics refers to the process of making collective decisions, usually by governments, to allocate public
resources and to create and enforce rules for the operation of society
A political system is the way a society organizes and manages its politics across various levels of public
Lasswell says that politics fundamentally revolves around satisfying peoples needs or wants, because
politics determines the distribution or redistribution of goods and services to satisfy interests
Institutions constrain how people behave when they act along with others to make collective decisions, and
they include rules and procedures for passing laws, interpreting laws, enforcing laws, counting votes, and
electing governments, and appointing government employees, among many other functions
Branches of government Congress, The president, Federal courts
Organizations Internal revenue service, rules committee in the house of representatives, the electoral
college, political parties, interest groups
Rules and procedures simple plurality election rules, separation of powers, judicial review, campaign
Federal systems (Federalism) there are multiple levels of government, in which each level has
independent authority over important areas of policy
Political systems = comprising a bundle of institutions within which many diverse people pursue their
American political system focuses on the “micro” levels of politics collective dilemma is that amongst
individuals and organizations, they require some level of authority to solve
Collective Dilemma a conflict between group goals and individual goals of self- interest
Many people believe in non-government and believe in self-government and that they can self govern them
by organizing activities that contribute to the common good BUT the absence of government can at least be
bad, or worse.
Types of collective dilemmas:
1) Public Good a benefit provided to a group of people such that each member can enjoy it without
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