Assignment: Functioning State Bureaucracy
The second challenge, state building, is the creation of political institutions—in particular, a central government—capable of exercising authority and providing services throughout the length and breadth of society. A functioning state bureaucracy promotes economic development and social unity by such mundane means as creating the infrastructure (roads, bridges, telephone lines) necessary for an integrated national economy. To achieve this essential result, the government must be capable of levying and collecting taxes. But in countries with traditional economies based on subsistence agriculture, there is often little or nothing to tax, which leads to a vicious cycle that can only be broken with infusions of foreign capital (trade, aid, and investment).
But foreign investment (an external variable) depends on political stability (an internal variable). It turns out that in the least developed countries, there are all sorts of vicious cycles.
A third challenge facing the LDCs is participation. For new societies to prosper and grow economically, the people must be actively engaged in the development process. This kind of mobilization gives rise to a political dilemma: As people become more actively involved and feel the effects of government (good and bad), they begin to demand a greater voice in determining who governs and how. But what if rising expectations strain the capacity of the state to respond? Hence, the challenge of participation is how to harness popular energies without setting in motion the forces of political disintegration or revolution.
The fourth and final challenge is distribution to reduce the extreme inequality that often characterizes traditional societies. Extremes of wealth and poverty can easily lead to a pervasive sense of injustice and, in turn, to mass revolt (see Chapter 14), as Marxism’s popular appeal in the Third World during the Cold War demonstrated. In some cases, attempts have been made to address the challenge of distribution through land reform, but often only half-heartedly. Readjusting tax burdens and instituting income redistribution are two other obvious approaches to this problem, but the cost of Western-style social welfare programs is prohibitive for least developed countries.
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