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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wars, Guns and Votes - Democracy in Dangerous Places by Paul Collier, 1 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places (Hardcover)
This is the book to read if you are one of those who despair at the plight of "The Bottom Billion" - the number of those of the world's population who live in abject poverty and, incidentally, the title of another of Paul Collier's books. He argues that many of the governments of countries to which the bottom billion is home are neither legitimate nor accountable, nor are they secure. Part of the problem is that people vote along tribal lines regardless of the efficiency of the incumbent government. Thus the check on poor government, supposedly provided by democracy, is impaired. Further impairment of the democratic process is caused by such nefarious techniques as bribery, intimidation and vote rigging. The reason why such techniques are employed is that the winner of an election takes all and often makes life very uncomfortable for the opposition e.g. the trashing of homes belonging to the opposition in Zimbabwe under the mendacious euphemism of "throw out rubbish". Unsurprisingly, elections under these conditions are frequently violent, the violence being exacerbated by excessive military spending, up to 40% of which is financed by donors. Worst of all is civil war which is described as development in reverse. So what is to be done? Professor Collier charts a way which lies between the laissez faire option which has left Somalia without a government for over a decade (and Al Qaida now busily trying to fill the vacuum) and the pre-emptive strike that was employed in the second invasion of Iraq. He suggests that it should be possible to harness the potent force for domestic violence for good instead of for harm and that the mechanism is the provision of minimal international intervention. This would ensure proper standards of democratic elections, and accountability and security of the elected government. In turn this would allow a raft of positive policies, described by Professor Collier, to be put in place, lifting the population out of the wretchedness that is currently their lot.
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