NBER Working Papers by Isaias N. Chaves

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Working Papers

May 2014Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective
with Daron Acemoglu, Philip Osafo-Kwaako, James A. Robinson: w20092
A fundamental problem for economic development is that most poor countries have 'weak state' which are incapable or unwilling to provide basic public goods such as law enforcement, order, education and infrastructure. In Africa this is often attributed to the persistence of 'indirect rule' from the colonial period. In this paper we discuss the ways in which a state constructed on the basis of indirect rule is weak and the mechanisms via which this has persisted since independence in Sierra Leone. We also present a hypothesis as to why the extent to which indirect rule has persisted varies greatly within Africa, linking it to the presence or the absence of large centralized pre-colonial polities within modern countries. Countries which had such a polity, such as Ghana and Uganda, tended to ...

Forthcoming: Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective, Daron Acemoglu, IsaĆ­as N. Chaves, Philip Osafo-Kwaako, James A. Robinson. in African Successes: Sustainable Growth, Edwards, Johnson, and Weil. 2015

November 2013Reinventing the Wheel: The Economic Benefits of Wheeled Transportation in Early British Colonial West Africa
with Stanley L. Engerman, James A. Robinson: w19673
One of the great puzzles of Sub-Saharan African economic history is that wheeled transportation was barely used prior to the colonial period. Instead, head porterage was the main method of transportation. The consensus among historians is that this was a rational adaption to the underlying conditions and factor endowments. In this paper we undertake the first systematic investigation of the relative costs of the different forms of wheeled transportation in Africa. We focus on calculating the social savings and social rate of return associated with the introduction of the railway into colonial British West Africa. We provide more speculative estimates of the social savings of other forms of wheeled transportation. We find that all forms of wheeled transportation were economically efficient ...
July 2009He Who Counts Elects: Determinants of Fraud in the 1922 Colombian Presidential Election
with Leopoldo Fergusson, James A. Robinson: w15127
This paper constructs measures of the extent of ballot stuffing (fraudulent votes) and electoral coercion at the municipal level using data from Colombia's 1922 Presidential elections. Our main findings are that the presence of the state reduced the extent of ballot stuffing, but that of the clergy, which was closely imbricated in partisan politics, increased coercion. We also show that landed elites to some extent substituted for the absence of the state and managed to reduce the extent of fraud where they were strong. At the same time, in places which were completely out of the sphere of the state, and thus partisan politics, both ballot stuffing and coercion were relatively low. Thus the relationship between state presence and fraud is not monotonic.

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