Ensuring Development by Linking Countries?

Is there a better way to make sure sustainable economic development happens? This is an idea I had a long time ago, but I thought I’d put it out there without developing it further. I should probably start by saying that things aren’t as bad as we often think.

Nonetheless, there remain big difference between countries (let’s leave out difference within countries for the moment). Most rich countries engage in international development, but donor countries have no direct stake. What if we could change this, what if we could make it donor countries responsible for development? Perhaps this would lead to innovative ways to reach development goals.

The basic idea is to pair up countries, and make them joint responsible. We could start by matching countries by listing them by GDP, GDP per capita, and the HDI. We then link the country at the top with a few countries at the bottom (considering their capacity on the basis of say the GDP), the second country from the top with a few countries close to the bottom, etc. We could even throw in historical links or geographical proximity (even cultural similarities?) into the matching. We’ll end up with unions of rich and poor countries who are jointly responsible to meet the development targets in both places in the long term — so the unions would remain for a long period. We have the UN to monitor progress, but it’ll be up to the matched unions to decide how they achieve the goals.

We already have the UN and other international bodies who set targets, priorities, and time-frames. What we will gain is a clear responsibility if countries fall behind. Successful countries get bragging rights, unsuccessful ones we can shame.

Explaining MIPEX Scores with Patterns of Democracy

I’m always happy to see research published that I hoped to get done ‘one of theses days’. A recent paper in West European Politics uses a sophisticated model to statistically explain immigration policies using patterns of democracy. Different aspects of democracy are associated in different ways, but I’m a bit puzzled by the decision of the authors to downplay the influence of GDP. Perhaps there’s still a difference between political science and sociology after all, and institutional differences count more, so to speak, than for example a modernization thesis.

Wasn’t it already published, I’d include this paper as an example in my recent paper on recombining MIPEX. It’s just one of these instances where aggregated MIPEX scores (and in the supplementary material MIPEX dimensions) are used. Well, if you’re not into recombining MIPEX, a look at a pure reliability assessment of MIPEX might have helped making a slightly stronger case. With just 30 countries, more sensitivity analysis would also help. For instance, is there something about “settler legacies” or is it just Anglosaxon countries with a longer tradition of regulating race and ethnicity — something that MIPEX honours?

Future efforts should make use of the fact that MIPEX data have been collected over time, which makes for stronger conclusions (institutions or otherwise). They may also use theory other than the empirically refuted assumption that proportional systems are good for all kinds of minorities under all circumstance. Irrespective of these quibbles, with the paper by Anita Manatschal and Julian Bernauer we have a good basis to build on.

Limits of Descriptive Representation

Having spent quite a bit on trying to understand political representation, I know how easy it is to forget the wider context. Here I want to highlight just two things.

First, even if the political representation of different groups is a good thing, we mustn’t forget that most political systems do not revolve around ethnic difference or gender, but about economic growth, the availability of jobs, or security and stability more widely.

Second, there’s a paper Robert Goodin that neatly outlines the limits of descriptive representation in representing diversity — whilst maintaining legislatures where deliberation and debate remains possible. While he may not account enough for multiple group membership and the fact that not every legislator needs to take part in every debate, Goodin’s argument is a good reminder to keep in mind the bigger picture: why do we care about political representation? After all, with opinion polls we have a good instrument capturing the preferences of the population…

Goodin, Robert E. 2004. “Representing Diversity.” British Journal of Political Science 34 (3): 453–468. doi:10.1017/S0007123404000134.