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Foreign Aid and the National Interest

Andrew Natsios and Larry Diamond

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How should the United States approach foreign aid? Andrew Natsios and Larry Diamond recommend tough love.

Since Saddam Hussein's fall from power last April, the world has learned a great deal about the consequences of his abhorrent rule: mass killings, a brutalized population, staggering corruption, an impoverished population, a devastated environment, neglected educational institutions, a miscarried justice system, and other failing governmental functions. This legacy of Saddam's horrific misrule is the most dramatic demonstration of the vital connection between the vibrancy and economic development of a people and the nature of their governing institutions. The mounting evidence of this linkage around the world must drive a revolution in the way that we administer foreign assistance.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was merely the most recent example of atrocious governance in a world filled with dozens of tyrannical, predatory, and failing states. Democratic and accountable states do significantly better at delivering development for their people. To be sure, some East Asian states have contained corruption and achieved rapid development under authoritarian rule--but worldwide, these states have been the exception. Over the past two decades, the two most rapidly developing countries in Africa have been the only two African states to sustain democracy continuously since independence, Botswana and Mauritius. Recent research by Richard Roll and John Talbott (published in the July 2003 Journal of Democracy) shows that government institutions and policies explain most of the variation across countries in economic development, with property rights, control of corruption, civil liberties, and political rights all significant factors accounting for development success. Thomas Zweifel and Patricio Navarro find (in the same issue of the Journal of Democracy) that at every level of national development, fewer infants die in democracies than in dictatorships.

Read the entire article on the Hoover Institute website.

Posted: 4/24/04



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