Monday , November 18 2019
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Democracy on a Knife-Edge

Summary:
The failure to protect minority rights is a readily understood consequence of the political logic behind the emergence of democracy. What requires explanation is not the relative rarity of liberal democracy, but its existence. CAMBRIDGE – In Mohammed Hanif’s novel Red Birds, an American bomber pilot crashes his plane in the Arabian desert and is stranded among the locals in a nearby refugee camp. He finds himself talking about thieves with a local shopkeeper. “Our government is the biggest thief,” he explains. “It steals from the living, it steals from the dead.” The shopkeeper replies, “Thank God we don’t have that problem. We just steal from each other.” The Impeachment Trap

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The failure to protect minority rights is a readily understood consequence of the political logic behind the emergence of democracy. What requires explanation is not the relative rarity of liberal democracy, but its existence.

CAMBRIDGE – In Mohammed Hanif’s novel Red Birds, an American bomber pilot crashes his plane in the Arabian desert and is stranded among the locals in a nearby refugee camp. He finds himself talking about thieves with a local shopkeeper. “Our government is the biggest thief,” he explains. “It steals from the living, it steals from the dead.” The shopkeeper replies, “Thank God we don’t have that problem. We just steal from each other.”

This little vignette just about summarizes the key message of Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s new book, The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty. Acemoglu and Robinson’s thesis is that prospects for freedom and prosperity balance on a knife-edge between state oppression and the lawlessness and...

Dani Rodrik
I am an economist, and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. My most recent book is Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton, 2015). I was born and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. I still follow Turkish politics very closely, as you will find out if you spend any time with this blog.

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