Journal Article

The political economy of state failure

Paul Collier

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 25, issue 2, pages 219-240
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI:
The political economy of state failure

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  • Economic Development and Growth
  • Public Economics
  • Political Economy
  • Public Policy


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Rapid decolonization created many arbitrary countries. In contrast to those states which had emerged through a quasi-Darwinian process of selection, some of these new countries had structural characteristics which gravely impeded the provision of public goods. Their lack of a unifying sense of shared identity made cooperation difficult, and their tiny economic size left them unable to reap scale economies. Two public goods, security and accountability, are particularly important for development and so, where they could not be provided, states failed. The cause of a problem is not necessarily a guide to its solution: Darwinian struggle among failing states is not something to be encouraged. Solutions lie partly in a phase of international provision of the key public goods, partly in enhanced regional pooling of sovereignty, and partly in institutional innovation to make the domestic provision of public goods less demanding of the state.

Keywords: state failure; economic development; public goods; security; taxation; accountability; H29; H41; H56; O11

Journal Article.  12382 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth ; Public Economics ; Political Economy ; Public Policy

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