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Why aren't countries rich?: Weak states and bad neighbourhoods


  • Charles Kenny


This article challenges a common viewpoint that the policy choices made by state leaders are central to explanations of economic growth. It argues that there are two possible flaws in this viewpoint. First, that state leaders have a free choice in policy decisions; second, that it is policies that in large part determine growth rates. Using a set of variables designed to capture the weakness of the policy autonomy of the state and possible non-policy influences on growth rates, the article concludes that initial conditions are a better determinant of wealth and growth than free policy choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Kenny, 1999. "Why aren't countries rich?: Weak states and bad neighbourhoods," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(5), pages 26-47.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:35:y:1999:i:5:p:26-47
    DOI: 10.1080/00220389908422590

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    2. Dan Schendel & Derek Channon & Ari Ginsberg & N. Venkatraman, 1992. "Abstract," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(S1), pages 37-53, June.
    3. Pollak, R.A. & Watkins, S.C., 1993. "Cultural and Economic Approaches to Fertility : A Proper Marriage or a Mesalliance?," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 93-11, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
    4. Pranab Bardhan, 1996. "Decentralised Development," Indian Economic Review, Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, vol. 31(2), pages 139-156, July.
    5. Wade, Robert, 1985. "The market for public office: Why the Indian state is not better at development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 467-497, April.
    6. Isham, Jonathan & Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Does Participation Improve Performance? Establishing Causality with Subjective Data," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 9(2), pages 175-200, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kenny, Charles & Williams, David, 2001. "What Do We Know About Economic Growth? Or, Why Don't We Know Very Much?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-22, January.
    2. Clemens, Michael A. & Kenny, Charles J. & Moss, Todd J., 2007. "The Trouble with the MDGs: Confronting Expectations of Aid and Development Success," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 735-751, May.
    3. Kenny, Charles, 2002. "The Internet and Economic Growth in Least Developed Countries," WIDER Working Paper Series 075, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Joilson Dias & John McDermott, 2011. "Institutions, Humancapital And Economic Growth: A New Theoretical And Empirical Approach," Anais do XXXVII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 37th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 83, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].

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