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Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places [Kindle Edition]

Paul Collier
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Collier has made a substantial contribution to current discussions. His evidence-based approach is a worthwhile corrective to the assumptions about democracy that too often tend to dominate when Western policy makers talk about the bottom billion.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Before President Obama makes a move he would do well to read Professor Paul Collier’s Wars, Guns, and Votes. . . Unlike many academics Collier comes up with very concrete proposals and some ingenious solutions.” — The Times (London)

In Wars, Guns, and Votes, esteemed author Paul Collier offers a groundbreaking, radical look at the world’s most violent, corrupt societies, how they got that way, and what can be done to break the cycle. George Soros calls Paul Collier “one of the most original minds in the world today,” and Wars, Guns, and Votes, like Collier’s previous award-winning book The Bottom Billion, is essential reading for anyone interested in current events, war, poverty, economics, or international business.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this accessible and very sensible analysis, Collier (The Bottom Billion) argues that the spread of democracy after the end of the Cold War has not actually made the world a safer place, as the West has promoted the wrong features of democracy: the façade rather than the essential infrastructure. The author hypothesizes that an insistence on elections without a system of checks and balances has led to widespread corruption, nations mired in ethnic politics and economic underperformance. Collier examines the effect of civil wars, coups and rebellions on burgeoning democracies, founding all arguments on methodology and data sets that provide a hard, quantitative view of political violence. While many of his observations are insightful and occasionally prescient, his analysis weakens when it strays from the data and enters more theoretical territory. However, the author maintains an approachable style and reaches beyond jargon to provide a highly readable account of the complex realities facing the developing world. Collier's suggestions are pragmatic, and although they may incense ideologues, most readers will connect with this common sense approach matched with obvious expertise. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Very important ideas based on extremely thorough empirical research...put him in the same camp as real heavyweights such as the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz" -- Misha Glenny Guardian "Collier comes up with very concrete proposals and some ingenious solutions" The Times "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 "With its verve, wit and lateral thinking, this is a book that changes its readers' horizons" Observer "It is always a pleasure to discover Paul Collier's latest thoughts...always illuminating and grounded in rigorous social's gripping stuff" -- Allister Heath Literary Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 269 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B001RTT7DY
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001QIH012
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,393 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely stimulating; deeply exasperating June 28, 2009
War, Guns and Votes builds on the strongest section of Collier's best selling `Bottom Billion' - his investigation of the `conflict trap' that afflicts a disproportionate number of the poorest counties, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (Collier's real passion). The book is in equal measure hugely stimulating and deeply exasperating. Stimulating because he is an original thinker and a brilliant communicator, as well as a policy entrepreneur who always tries to get back to the `so what' on any issue. He defies easy left/right pigeon-holing - he is a free trader, yet admires Julius Nyerere (if not his economic policies) and is a fan of UN peacekeeping.

Frustrating because of his eccentric attitude to evidence: he looks for statistical relationships, runs dozens of cross country regressions, establishes correlations between different variables (income, conflict, geography etc) and plausible directions of causation, but then blithely ignores other disciplines or qualititative research methods and as he freely admits, `guesses' about the explanations for them. You could sum up his method as `correlate, then speculate'. To be fair, he may be doing all sorts of reading in other disciplines and just keeping it to himself, but the absence of footnotes makes it impossible to say.

So what's his basic argument? That the international community has got overly obsessed with elections, which can actually set back the process of post-conflict reconstruction (he wanted to call the book 'Democracy in Dangerous Places', but for some reason the publishers vetoed it), and that a new approach to international intervention is required to drag bottom billion countries, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, out of their various traps (poverty, conflict, commodity dependence etc).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Security and Accountability November 4, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote comparing Collier's book with one by Fareed Zakaria ('The Future of Freedom'):

Collier's main argument in his book is that a successful transition to democracy requires the supply of two basic public goods--security and accountability--and that such should be supplied internationally since most developing countries lack adequate internal checks and balances and security mechanisms that guarantee the provision of both. Furthermore, security and accountability can mitigate the three factors listed above that undermine democracy: lack of economic growth, large ethnic diversity, and the abundance of natural resources as a hindrance to accountability.

Now for the first public good, security. When a Third World dictator announces that he wants to transition his country to democracy, the usual carrot used by the international community is that of aid. However, as Collier demonstrates, the increase in aid often increases violence as aid money leaks into funding armies, and the embezzlement of aid along ethnic lines foments jealousy and conflict. (Collier 2009, 121-123) Rather, he asserts that a more effective carrot is a security guarantee, specifically against coups, on the basis of clean elections. "Key members of the international community [should] make a common commitment that should a government that has committed itself to some international standard of elections be ousted by a coup d'état, they would ensure that the government was reinstated, by military means if necessary." (Collier 2009, 204) The main objection to this idea, especially by non-interventionists, is that security guarantees obligate countries to go to war when it is not clearly in its interest to do so--no "clear and present danger," as it were.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Using political violence to help the poor? April 6, 2010
The political violence inherent in the societies of the poorest countries in the world should be harnessed as a force for good, according to this book. The book draws numerous inferences about democracy, wars and violence from a broad range of statistical research to explain why democracy is dangerous for the poorest countries; incumbent governments prefer vote-rigging whereas oppositions prefer intimidation; readily available cheap guns make wars more likely; 11% of development aid leaks into military spending; and coups almost always have bad outcomes.

These inferences have an air of credibility, even if the book does not include footnotes referencing the data from which they are derived, but then the author goes on to make three surprising proposals. Firstly, countries should be encouraged to submit to an international standard for conducting elections; if they comply with the standard, the international community provides security against coups, but if they do not comply the international community declares that it will not contest a coup, thereby essentially encouraging the country's military to take things into their own hands. Secondly, donors should enforce probity in public spending using governance conditionalities. And thirdly, to discourage military spending, donors should reduce their aid in proportion to increases in a country's military spending.

Like so many other writers on poverty and the plight of the world's poor, the author is in my view reasonably accurate with his diagnoses of the problems but unrealistic with his proposed solutions. The book is well written and interesting, but I am not convinced that the author's political and sociological observations are as well grounded as his statistical skills.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Social Science, Great Humanity, Good humor
This is just a great book. Collier writes with wit, clarity, logic, humanity and an obvious affection for the world's poorest billion people who live in places where Western... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Edgar Mcgarvey
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul Collier does great research and comes up with real, practical...
Collier is the best economist on the planet and his analyses of why civil wars happen is right on the mark.
Published 8 months ago by Paul K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Need to read!
Fantastic insight in why the poorest countries have difficulties to get into an accelerated development path. Backed up by solid research and written with humor. Read more
Published 9 months ago by stijn van der krogt
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging
This book is so challenging about our work in unstable environments. He offers insights and options that make absolute sense and do need to be thought through .
Published 12 months ago by H. F. Green
For those who have been trying to educate themselves on certain international affairs such as politics of poor countries and arms trading this book attempts to explain it. Read more
Published on January 18, 2011 by Denis Benchimol Minev
4.0 out of 5 stars Guns, Wars, and Votes: Thought-provoking
I found Guns, Wars, and Votes to be very thought-provoking. As I child I remember the frequency with which the news media joyfully announced a new country being birthed in Africa. Read more
Published on September 13, 2010 by Vi from Colorado
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and provocative analysis of Third World elections
It seems natural that introducing democracy should be a key step along the way to better governance and more prosperity in the Third World. But is this true in practice? Read more
Published on April 26, 2010 by Graham
2.0 out of 5 stars 1 word
This book is full of BS! it does not consider other points of views. I honestly do not think our form of democracy is the only form that the whole world should follow, homogenizing... Read more
Published on March 21, 2010 by M. Taddesse
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for the Boots on the Ground
As a soldier on the ground during the Sunni Awakening in Iraq in 2007, this book is perfect for bridging the gap between academia and field work in post-conflict areas. Read more
Published on February 22, 2010 by J. Schulze
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy follow up to Bottom Billion
Once again, Collier has managed to summarize a line of quantitative macroeconomic research in a way that is lively and engaging for a general readership. Read more
Published on January 17, 2010 by Benjamin Linkow
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More About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former director of Development Research at the World Bank. In addition to the award-winning The Bottom Billion, he is the author of Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.


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