01 February 2011

One Rule to Rule Them All

Ranil makes the important point that whilst we may be good at describing good institutions ex post, we ain’t so good ex ante.
the reality of how rules emerge and are enforced is far more complex than Romer and many advocates of good governance and institutional approaches to economics recognise. I’ve seen a lot of people write some variation of ‘we know what good rules are’ or ‘we have a good understanding of what institutions stimulate development’. Despite this, I’ve never seen anyone actually set down on paper exactly what the correct legal framework and institutional makeup for development is. If we really did know what worked, surly someone would have written a fairly uncontroversial but best-selling book about this, right?
Here’s the thing – we don’t need to set out the exact legal framework because as Rodrik has said, we have the “meta-institution” of democracy. I’m going to go out on a wild limb and make a universal prescription: constraints on the executive, an electorally accountable legislative, and rights and protections for individuals and minorities are always and everywhere good things.
Trouble is, as the Egyptians are ably demonstrating, and in the words of Claude Ake (via Cblatts),
Democracy is never given, it is always taken.”


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