Most measures of governance appear to focus on the situation of the average citizen, operating under the implicit assumption that societies offer the same level of governance to all citizens. In fact, though, countries vary substantially in the degree to which they favor some groups of citizens over others, and with respect to the size of favored groups. The political arrangements in countries drive these differences. In non-democracies, for example, rulers might be constrained by large and institutionalized ruling parties, or not, implying that a fraction or very small fraction of the society enjoys relatively high levels of governance. In democracies, political competition might hinge on the credible commitments that politicians make to very small groups of citizens (in highly clientelist countries) or very large groups (where programmatic political parties organize political competition). Failure to take these circumstances into account can lead to an underestimate of governance in non-democracies and an over-estimate in democracies.
About the speaker:
PHILIP KEEFER is a Lead Research Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. Since receiving his PhD in Economics from Washington University at St. Louis, he has worked continuously on the interaction of institutions, political economy and economic development. His research has included investigations of the impact of insecure property rights on economic growth; the effect of political credibility on the policy choices of governments; and the sources of political credibility in democracies and autocracies.