Another Case for Democracy

Niall Ferguson writes in The Telegraph today about the plight of Africa and the need for democratic reform on the dark continent:

…Between 1950 and 1995, Western countries gave away around $1 trillion (in 1985 prices) in aid to poorer countries. But these efforts yielded pitiful results, as New York University economist Bill Easterly has shown, because the recipient countries lacked the political, legal and financial institutions necessary for the money to be used productively.

Indeed, much of the money that has poured into poor countries since the 1950s has simply leaked back out – often to bank accounts in Switzerland…

…So Africa’s problem is not a problem that aid can solve. On the contrary: aid may simply make the problem worse. Africa’s real problem is a problem of governance, and it is a problem Kenya exemplifies.

Nobody, least of all me, claims that British imperial rule was perfect. Elkins is not the first historian to expose the dark side of colonialism. But most sub-Saharan governments since independence have managed to treat their populations significantly worse than the British did. For all its imperfections, the Colonial Civil Service was not corrupt. When money was sent to build railways or schools, British officials did not simply pocket it…

…Empires have their faults, no doubt. But independent African governments have often been more exploitative and worse for economic growth.


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