February, 2004

The Political Foundations of Development: The Case of Botswana - Working Paper

  • Scott Beaulier

    Academic Dean, College of Business at North Dakota State University
  • J. Robert Subrick

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This working paper explores the political foundations of economic growth in Botswana. In particular, we apply the theory of the proprietary states to economic development (Grossman and Noh 1990, 1994; Grossman 2000). First, we find that Botswana’s government has been able to adopt polices that do encourage economic growth rather than expropriate wealth from the citizenry. Even though it is a land-locked country with poor geographic terrain, Botswana has protected private property, avoided the curse of natural resources and the accompanying rent-seeking, and maintained a relatively low inflation environment. Documenting the ‘good’ polices of the Botswana government raises the question of why has the Botswana government been able to promote development? That is, why has the Botswana state not been more predatory? Beaulier and Subrick suggest that the success is attributable to the unlikely threat of social upheaval by the citizens. This success is almost entirely due to the government’s provision of public goods, and its ability to successfully solve problems that arise during a time of crisis. Wars of attrition between interest groups were avoided.