Green to Collier: It’s the politics, stupid!

Duncan Green has posted a great review of Paul Collier’s new book, The Plundered Planet: How to Reconcile Prosperity with Nature. Read Green’s review here. Regular readers of this blog know that I like analytical book reviews but that my own reading habits rarely keep pace with new releases. If I ever get around to reading this book, it will take at least a year, so I thought I would share this review with you now. It’s worth a read whether you plan to read the actual book or not.

My meta-review: Green critiques Collier on his weak political analysis, calling politics his “achilles’ heel” and “blindspot”. I would have to agree, based only on my reading of Collier’s other books (The Bottom Billion and War, Guns and Votes — see Green’s excellent review of the latter here). I’ve always been impressed by Collier’s ability to bridge economics and governance in an analytical, empirical way. Although he puts too much faith in his cross-country regressions, he at least brings some of the rigor of dry academic journals to the wider audience of public discourse, which is too often dominated by poorly-argued New York Times bestsellers and ridiculous proposals. Collier’s rigor allows him consider the impact of various policy recommendations on both economic and governance issues. However, actually implementing policy requires grappling with politics. That’s a whole lot harder, and that’s where Collier fails to deliver.