Growth, Debt, and Politics: Economic Adjustment and the Political Performance of Developing Countries

By Lewis W. Snider | Go to book overview

2
Comparing the Political Strength of Nations

Introduction: The State and the Economy

Political change must accompany economic adjustment in most developing countries. Defining an appropriate role for the state in the economy is a problem that confronts both advocates of market-oriented orthodox policies for solving the debt problem and the partisans of alternative or heterodox solutions. In this respect the capacity of the state to logistically implement government decisions throughout its jurisdiction is both part of the problem and part of the solution.

The ability of a Third World government to adjust to international economic shocks depends to a large degree on its capacity to insulate itself from or adjust to domestic political claims and international pressures that might prevent stabilization and adjustment measures from having their intended impact on the economy. The government must have political room to maneuver among competing pressure groups, the technical and bureaucratic capabilities to implement its policies, and enough coercive power to make and break strategic compromises with key players based on careful monitoring of adjustment measures as stabilization proceeds ( Callaghy 1990: 120).

What is needed, therefore, in order to predict the likelihood of successful economic adjustment, is an index of a country's political capacity to carry out the tasks imposed upon it by its political elite, by competing domestic interest groups, or by international pressures. These are the sorts of activities implied in the concept of political extraction -- the ability of the state to extract resources from society and to mobilize and redirect them in pursuit of national objectives.

To assert that one country's political system is more effective than another's means that it is better able, ceteris paribus, to extract and allocate material and human resources from society to serve national objectives. A politically weak government is one that fails to mobilize and direct the human and material resources nominally under its control in order to logistically implement its policy decisions.

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