World Bank President Completes Record Democracy-Free Term

Here at DRI, we must concede our longstanding strenuous effort to get the individual who has been World Bank President  to say the word "Democracy" has ignominiously failed. His term ends this weekend. Alas, this is more than a game. Yesterday, the peaceful Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega was convicted of "high treason" and "terrorist acts"  for such nefarious activities as noticing there was an Arab Spring. (Nega should have followed the World Bank President's exemplary speech on the Arab Spring that omitted the word "democracy" even in a purely descriptive sense. ) The World Bank has given Ethiopia's government more than $2.5 billion (2007-2010) during Robert Zoellick's term.

Of course, President Zoellick did have to obey China  the 1944 Articles of Agreement, which forbids interference in "the political affairs of any member." But when Ethiopian rulers use the aid to give food relief to supporters and starve opponents, according to careful documentation by Human Rights Watch (HRW),  one begins to wonder if aid itself is political interference? Wouldn't suspending aid be more consistent with the Articles in that case?

At least the Development Assistance Group for Ethiopia (which includes the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU, together accounting for another $6 billion to Meles Zenawi over 2007-2010) sternly commissioned a field investigation into the HRW charges. Which has since quietly been cancelled. A 2009 secret US cable released by Wikileaks said that donors to Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi were already “keenly aware that foreign assistance … is vulnerable to politicization."

Mr. Zoellick, you still have two whole business days to use some word form of democra____.    Maybe you could just casually mention the official name of North Korea?

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More Governance in Government’s Governing

By William Easterly The new World Bank blog People, Spaces, Deliberation has already achieved one milestone: it covers exhaustively the field of “governance” with little or no usage of words that have historically been prominent in such discussions (see chart).

We were inspired by the new blog to translate one historical document that is now badly out of date and frame it as a practical roadmap for further engaging civil society:



We hold these truths to be self-evident The mainstream consensus among experts is
that all men are created equal, All efforts should be inclusive,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, Development as a Multi-Stakeholder Initiative must be Broad-based and Community-driven,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Including Social Sector Goals, Participation, and the pursuit of Capacity-Building.

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WORKING PAPER: Reestablishing the Income-Democracy Nexus

...[T]he bulk of the evidence favors of a statistical relationship between income and democratization.

Fighting words from DRI Affiliated Faculty Jess Benhabib and co-authors Alejandro Corvalan and Mark Spiegel, who use new data to overturn previous studies (Acemoglu, et al (2001), Easterly and Levine (2003), Rodrik et al (2004)) that showed good democratic institutions cause economic growth, not the other way around.

In this paper, we reexamine the robustness of the income-democracy relationship. We extend the research on this topic in two dimensions: first, we make use of newer income data, which allows for the construction of larger samples with more within-country observations. Second, we concentrate on panel estimation methods that explicitly allow for the fact that the primary measures of democracy are censored with substantial mass at the boundaries, or binary censored variables. Our results show that when one uses both the new income data available and a properly non linear estimator, a statistically significant positive income-democracy relationship is robust to the inclusion of country fixed effects.

Read the paper.

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VIDEO: Professor Easterly Speaks at the Carnegie Council

Why is honesty so important? Professor Easterly discussed this cardinal value in his own career, and in the context of international development, with Julia Kennedy and Devin T. Stewart at the Carnegie Council on September 15. "People do know a lot about their own problems at their own level," he said. "They can give you feedback on how you're doing, if you are trying to solve their problems from the top, from government. In a democracy, you give feedback on how well, or how badly, the government is doing.

"So individual rights is also a way to mobilize all the knowledge in society that we need to make the economy work. It's the individual that has the particular knowledge so that they know how to run their factory, to employ people, to be a worker themselves, to start new businesses."

Professor Easterly previously discussed Globalization and Creative Capitalism at previous Carnegie Council events.

Watch the video below:


Or, listen to the podcast:


>>Ethics Matter: A Conversation with William Easterly (Carnegie Council Website)

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PODCAST: Professor Easterly talks to EconTalk about Growth and Benevolent Autocrats

William Easterly talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the oft-heard claim that poor countries led by autocrats grow faster than poor countries that are democratic. Drawing on a recent paper, “Benevolent Autocrats,” Easterly argues that while some autocracies do indeed grow very quickly, a much greater number do not. Yet, the idea that the messiness of democracy is inferior to a dictatorship remains seductive. Easterly gives a number of arguments for the perennial appeal of autocracy as a growth strategy. The conversation closes with a discussion of the limitations of our knowledge about growth and where that leaves policymakers. [audio]

>>Download the podcast (30.0 MB)

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PUBLICATIONS: Democratic Accountability in Development: The Double Standard

By William EasterlySocial Research, Vol. 77, No. 4, pp. 1075-1104 Winter 2010

The Development Establishment today tolerates a shocking double standard on democracy for the rich versus democracy for the poor. Despite both the moral and pragmatic argument for democratic rights for all, development policy discussions give little emphasis to rights for the poor. Worse, influential Western policymakers and thought leaders sing praises of autocrats such as Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, who has strong record of repressing minority groups and political opponents.

Democratic accountability is important to governance, and fundamental in promoting development. To begin with the obvious Civics 101 view, accountability is a crucial mechanism to ensure that government does good and not ill to those affected by its actions. Under democracy, citizens can use many mechanisms -- such as voting, popular protests, and spoken and written criticisms -- to penalize governments that are harming individuals (even if it is only a minority of individuals).

The same mechanisms reward political actors that do good by, for example, supplying public goods. When such mechanisms work, the government is accountable to its citizens. The opposite of accountability is impunity -- the government can do whatever it wants to its citizens without consequences.


>>Download the paper


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