Designed by Leopoldo Fergusson and Catalina Murcia Alejo

How not to build a state: Evidence from Colombia

A major problem in many poor countries is lack of state capacity to control violence, enforce laws, tax and regulate economic activity, or provide public services. This column uses the example of Colombia to assess the effectiveness of top-down state-building strategies that prioritise military objectives ahead of all others. Such approaches may not only fail to develop other crucial aspects of state capacity, but may also lead to deteriorations in these incipient capacities.

 

A major problem in many countries today is the lack of state capacity, including the ability to control violence, enforce laws, tax and regulate economic activity, and provide public services. These limitations are rife in many poor countries, and Fearon and Latin (2003) have argued that this is the root cause of civil war. Despite the potential benefits, developing these capabilities seems to be remarkably hard, with many countries exhibiting persistently state weakness...

 

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