Adequate power of government

Poor nations sometimes face the problem of weak, unstable governments. Governments must have enough power to maintain their own stability, and to prevent crime and flouting of their authority, if their nations are to move toward prosperity. This will allow them to effectively use their power for the benefit of the people as a whole.

Italy, Spain, and Portugal in the nineteenth century were “plagued by political instability,”[1] and economic development was stunted as a result. Similarly, Latin America in the nineteenth century experienced all of the problems of unstable and ineffective government, such as repeated “conspiracies, cabals, coups and countercoups—with all that these entailed in insecurity, bad government, corruption and economic retardation.”[2]

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson emphasize that a “lack of centralization” in a government, which leaves the government too weak to control the nation, leads to disorder and prolonged poverty. They say, “Inclusive political and economic institutions [which lead to economic growth] necessitate some degree of political centralization so that the state can enforce law and order, uphold property rights, and encourage economic activity when necessary by investing in public services.” But they report that several African nations and a few outside Africa have failed to achieve this centralization of effective authority: “Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal, and Somalia . . . have states that are unable to maintain the most rudimentary order, and economic incentives are all but destroyed.”[3]

The Bible recognizes the evil that results when there is no effective government and anarchy prevails. The history of Israel, as recorded in Judges 17-21, shows what happens when there is no effective government at all, for “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; cf. 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). This portion of Scripture contains stories about the most horrible kinds of sin and corruption as evil ran rampant.

  • [1] Landes, Wealth and Poverty, 249.
  • [2] Ibid., 313.
  • [3] Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty(New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), 243-44; see also 115, 253.
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