Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence and the Poverty of Nations

By Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel, 2008

Why You Should Read It:

Mercifully short for those who don’t have all the time on Earth, and stripped of jargon, the book covers related themes of corruption, violence and poverty in low-income countries in Africa, Asian and Latin America.

For an African reader or student of the continent, one of its more interesting parts would be its exploration of why many nations in Africa like Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania started their independent nationhood journey with socioeconomic indices proximate to those of South and East Asian nations, but have failed to close the income gap with those countries, let alone Europe and North America. Its argument is that the reason is unlikely to be found in the colonial history or lack of opportunity for economic advancement. Without making the absolute claim, the authors suggest that violence, corruption or a combination of the two is surely a part of that answer.

You want to know what unpaid parking violations by diplomats at the United Nations Headquarters in New York reveal about the countries they represent, or what world coffee prices had to do with the 1994 Rwanda genocide, it is all here.

Why You Should Grumble:

 It is hard to find a good reason to grumble about a two day read that will make you sound clever and informed at cocktail parties, but Fisman and Miguel do set you up to expect some innovative solutions to the corruption and development problem. They under-deliver on that score.


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