The Political Roots of Poverty: The Economic Logic of Autocracy

Foreign aid misapplied can lengthen the tenure of bad governments. A guide to understanding and engaging difficult development partners.

Issue: Summer 2002

The events of September 11, 2001 have led, among many other things,
to the revival of an old debate about the relationship between
poverty and political extremism. To get at the root of apocalyptic
terrorism, many new initiatives to reduce global poverty have been
proposed. British International Development Secretary Clare Short
advocates a massive international effort to stop poor countries from
becoming breeding grounds for terrorism: "The conditions which bred
their bitterness and hatred", she has said, "are linked to poverty
and injustice." Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown,
has called for a fifty-year Marshall Plan that would disperse aid in
exchange for an end to bad government, in his words, for "the
developing countries pursuing corruption-free policies for stability,
opening up trade and encouraging private investment." Some advocates

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