Why some places suck and others don't


It's hardly an original observation that some parts of the world suck mightily as places to be unfortunate enough to inhabit while others are, by historical or global standards, really rather decent. Various explanations for this have been offered over the years and the current fashionable one is that institutions matter. not just who is in power and what they want, but what restrictions does the society put upon exercise of power: is the law stable for example, are property rights respected, does getting ahead depend upon ingenuity, effort and improving the general lot or by sucking up to hten nearest politician? Or, Lord forbid, mounting a coup to become the nearest politician?

A fascinating look at one small part of this:

It seemed as if these chiefs — who would otherwise prefer secure property rights — were suffering from distributive conflicts over land and a lack of information about their boundaries and the extent of allocations. Common sense seemed to dictate that if lands were dutifully surveyed, demarcated, and adjudicated, and chiefs were given registers in which they could record allocations, they would surely avoid infringing on each other’s parcels and end these problems. So I asked Muntari [the local Ghanaian planning official] what the state was doing to help chiefs solve these distributive conflicts and information problems. Muntari’s response was unsettling. He claimed that, after working with chiefs for seventeen years, he had come to the conclusion that chiefs did not want clear boundaries, functional property registers, and an environment devoid of disputes. He argued that the chiefs would sabotage any effort to provide these features. According to Muntari, in the absence of such mechanisms, cash-strapped, land-hungry chiefs could conveniently “mistakenly” allocate the lands of neighboring chiefs or sell land that their ancestors had sold earlier. Further, where tenants engaged in subversive political behavior, chiefs could conveniently award their rights to more loyal subjects… Simply put, chiefs did not want property rights security.

Another way of putting this would be that in order to preserve and maximise their power politicians would prefer that many things and decisions are in the gift of politicians. with, as noted, the inevitable result that such things as property rights become the gift of politicians.

Whereas a limitation of political power through such things as the institution of laws on the protection and delineation of property rights reduces said power of politicians and boosts the property rights. Along with the incentives to invest in and develop said properties, to the benefit of all.

Something we might remember when people here argue that there should be more political oversight of this or that or the other. The incentives facing politicians are such that they will move to increase their power, not something which necessarily (or even possibly) is in the interest of the rest of us.

In short, more law and less politics makes for a richer, happier and more secure place.