- If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry Natalie Solent, Samizdata
- US regionalism and nationalism: the case of the Midwest Halvorson & Reno, Fieldsites
- Heterogeneous drivers of heterogeneous populism Colantone & Stanig, VoxEU
- How talk of witches stirs emotions in Nigeria Adaobi Nwaubani, BBC
- How a Huguenot philosopher realised that atheists could be virtuous Michael Hickson, Aeon
- Christian Pentecostalism has crept to the center of public life in Nigeria Ebenezer Obadare, Africa is a Country
- Last words about Nancy MacLean’s attack on James Buchanan Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber
- Are tariffs a big threat to China? Scott Sumner, EconLog
Nguyen Ha left this thoughtful comment about my post on protectionism in Africa that I am embarrassed I missed:
Would you care to explain how “stronger economic ties will hasten the demise of current African states’ superficial institutions”?
What a tough question! First, though, I stated that it was my hope that deeper trading ties would lead to more states, not my prediction. My hope is based on current trends around the world: stronger economic ties have led to more states (and more aspirations for statehood within existing states).
The best academic treatment on this topic comes from Giacomo Ponzetto, an economist currently at CREI in Barcelona (he’s been mentioned at NOL on more than one occasion, too), and especially the Introduction and Section 5 of his working paper titled “Globalization and Political Structure.” Here:
As globalization proceeds, localities remove borders by increasing the size of countries. The number of countries declines and the mismatch between each locality is ideal and actual provision of public services grows. Eventually, this mismatch is large enough to justify a move to a two-level governance structure. The world political structure shifts from a few large countries to many small countries within a world economic union. The two-level structure is more expensive, but it is nonetheless desirable because it facilitates trade and improves preference-matching in the provision of public services.
By “two-level governance structure” Ponzetto means one level, a locality, that’s focused on delivering public goods to that specific locality, and another level, a world economic union, that’s focused on protecting property rights and eliminating border costs.
You can see this concept play out in a few different federative structures, especially the EU, the US, India, and China. In the European Union, multiple localities have tried to separate from countries (Catalonia from Spain, Scotland from UK) while still remaining part of the international economic union in place. Deeper trade ties, more states.
Three new states were created in India in 2000, and China is currently grappling with federalism as a way to keep up with its predictable economic success. The US hasn’t seen any new states added since 1959, but that’s because its system does a good enough job overall to keep all its member states content (happy, even).
The free trade zone in Africa will be interesting to watch because there are so many different variables at play than in China, the EU, India, or the US. India was governed by one overseas empire; the EU has been able to maintain stability because of American military power and the security umbrella it provides; China has been unified on and off again for centuries; and the US is, for all intents and purposes, a polity underscored by British cultural, economic, and political mores. Africa has none of these traits, yet its various leaders recognize that free trade leads to prosperity and often (not always) to better diplomatic ties.
If all goes well, and current trends elsewhere are any indication, Africa would see more states come into being to go along with its deeper economic ties. (This might be a major factor why Nigeria refused to join; Abuja fought a vicious civil war in the 1970s against separatists in Biafra and its leaders are probably tacitly aware of current global trends.) If all doesn’t go well, then violence and poverty will be just around the corner.
Rwanda, a country that thankfully avoided “humanitarian” military intervention by Western powers during a nasty killing spree in the 90s, is leading the charge on free trade in Africa. Of the 54 countries on the African continent, 44 have signed the agreement, but the traditional economic giants of the continent – Nigeria and South Africa – have not. Surprisingly, Botswana, an example often cited by economists as an African success story, has not signed it either.
CNBC reports on why Nigeria has so far refused to join the agreement, citing a consultant who specializes in global trade:
There is a general sentiment among (labor unions and industry bodies) that Nigeria’s export capacity in non-oil sectors isn’t sufficiently robust yet to expose itself to external competition.
Unions and “buy local” capitalists: The scourge of prosperity and progress worldwide, but also not much of a surprise.
What will be interesting to see is where this bold experiment leads. How can 44 countries with poor institutions come together to form a free trade pact? I am hoping this will lead to more states in Africa. My logic goes something like this: stronger economic ties will hasten the demise of current African states’ superficial institutions, while allowing informal institutions to flourish. Because these informal institutions are better at solving coordination problems, they’ll eventually be recognized as states. Here’s how I put it back in 2012:
A better way of looking at it, and one that I have pointed out before, is to look at Europe realize that it shares roughly the same amount of polities as does Africa (50-ish) despite being four times smaller. I bring up the comparison with Europe because in the Old World things like ethnicity still have a strong hold on how individuals identify themselves with their various social spheres. Rather than the 50-ish number of polities in Africa that we have today, a better way of solving Africa’s problems would be to let the polities currently in place dissolve into 400 polities. Or 500. Then, I think, Africans would know peace and prosperity.
I’d add, today, that this would only be possible if the links built by this free trade pact endure. Economic integration is vital to the dissolution of Africa’s despotic states. (h/t Barry)