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Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (5 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847920217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847920218
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 690,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. He is a former Director of the Development Research group at the World Bank. His are aof research is the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid; and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resource-rich societies. His multi-award-winning book The Bottom Billion was published in 2007.

Product Description


"It is always a pleasure to discover Paul Collier's latest thoughts...always illuminating and grounded in rigorous social science...it's gripping stuff" (Allister Heath Literary Review)

"Collier knows Africa intimately... It is hard to be unmoved by his anger about the world's blindness to realities, and his passion to do things better" (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

"His recent Book Wars, Guns and Votes, is all the more remarkable in that it is based on impeccable scholarship and statistical analysis but remains highly readable and accessible." (Bruno Tertrais Survival)


"It's hard to be unmoved by [Collier's] anger about the world's blindness to realities, his passion to do things better."

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By L.Gordon on 16 July 2010
Format: Paperback
I liked The Bottom Billion, but was disappointed with this - bits of it were fairly patchy, or used some proxies that don't really show what he argued they showed. I'm not a stats expert, so I won't go into detail, but I know a number of academics that really hate this book because they argue that the statistics are deeply misleading.

What I will comment on, is his manipulation of the case studies to prove his point. In particular, in his case study of Cote d'Ivoire, he talked about Robert Guei leading a coup against Laurent Gbagbo in 2002, which simply isn't true. I was in Cote d'Ivoire at the time of the events in question, and it was universally known that Guei had nothing to do with the coup, which was run by a group of Northern officers and politicians. When it became clear that the coup wouldn't succeed in Abidjan, Gbagbo took the opportunity to wipe out some political opponents, including Guei and Alassane Ouattara, who narrowly escaped over the wall to the German Ambassador's house. Of course, if you accept the government line, you would believe that Guei was storming the radio station in his pyjamas, surrounded by his wife, kids and domestic staff, all of whom were killed in the firefight.

A basic google search could have turned up this information (I've just done one), but instead he chose to use a misleading case study that 'proved' his point. It just so happens that I know enough about Cote d'Ivoire to know that this was wrong, but it makes me wonder about everything else in the book that I don't know a lot about.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chola Mukanga on 24 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I first heard Paul Collier speak at a UK Government Economic Service conference about four or five years ago. The city was Cambridge and the subject that morning was on "economics of conflict : reducing the global incidence of civil wars". It was an energetic lecture full of empiricism and conviction. Economists and sceptics flock together, but that morning nearly every lunch table exude praise at Collier's refreshing insights on a subject that very few economists have given much thought. Since then Collier has gone on to publish the widely acclaimed "The Bottom Billion", along the way solidifying his place among the leading development experts in the world. Judging from his latest effort Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, that wonderful enthusiasm remains undiminished.

The basic premise of Wars, Guns and Votes is straightforward: security and accountability are crucial to the economic and social development of national states. They foster economic growth and ensure more equitable distribution of wealth. More importantly, security is a "universal right" or, as Sen would put it, it is both an end and means of development. The problem is that security and accountability are fundamentally public goods whose benefits go beyond individual states and therefore failure to provide them has repercussions beyond international borders. Bringing it closer to home, failure in securing peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not just costly to our Congolese brothers but also to our nation and other neighbouring states through regional risk contagion, reduced intra-regional trade, increase in refugees and so forth. Like many public goods, the "free-rider" nature of security and accountability leads to inevitable under-provision.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By kernel32 on 22 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
I came late to the Bottom Billion and by the time I had finished it this sequel had just arrived. I got it straight away. It follows the same approach of using rigorous academic analysis and then drawing conclusions and action plans.

The analysis of elections, ethnic identity, coups and wars is stimulating and set in the context of UK, US and European developments, not least in that mysterious period in UK history between the end of the Romans and somewhere around 1500 - which is much like Africa today. The proposals for progress are sensible and are built around accountability and security. The penultimate chapter title is "Better dead than fed" and sums up the relationship between food (survival) and the opportunities from federations.

Readers of the Bottom Billion will be pleased to know that this book includes a full list of the countries in an appendix. Both books went to press before the "Lehman disconnect" and the onset of the latest financial and economic crisis: we must hope that the third in the series will not be called the bottom two billion. Some countries, such as Pakistan which gets a passing mention, seem determined to join Afghanistan and the five Central Asian states in the list - and none seem inclined to leave.

In truth, the book mostly concentrates on Africa - anyone wanting to know more about the likes of Bolivia, Cambodia, the Central Asian states or Haiti will not find much here other than general principles.

Professor Collier has an engaging style and as well as being stimulating it is a good read as well. He is a master of the colon: I know of no other book with as many. His occasional intemperate outbursts are a joy. This is a really good book for anyone interested in the world around them, Africa, aid, the application of academic research to real-life problems - and on many other levels too. Recommended.
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