Monthly Review Press

Build It Now
BUILD IT NOW: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century by Michael A. Lebowitz

China and Socialism
CHINA AND SOCIALISM: Market Reforms and Class Struggle
by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett


The Great Reversal
THE GREAT REVERSAL: The Privatization of China, 1978-1989 by William Hinton

Red Cat, White Cat
RED CAT, WHITE CAT: China and the Contradictions of "Market Socialism" by Robert Weil

KOREA: Division, Reunification, and U.S. Foreign Policy by Martin Hart-Landsberg

The Rush to Development
THE RUSH TO DEVELOPMENT: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea by Martin Hart-Landsberg

More Unequal
MORE UNEQUAL: Aspects of Class in the United States (Ed. Michael D. Yates)

Cheap Motels and a Hotplate
CHEAP MOTELS AND A HOT PLATE: An Economist's Travelogue
by Michael D. Yates


The Politics of Immigration
THE POLITICS OF IMMIGRATION Questions and Answers by Jane Guskin and David Wilson

On the Global Waterfront
by Suzan Erem and E. Paul Durrenberger (Introduction by Greg Palast)


Law and the Rise of Capitalism

Women and the Politics of Class

The Socialist Feminist Project
THE SOCIALIST FEMINIST PROJECT: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics edited by Nancy Holmstrom

Not Automatic
NOT AUTOMATIC: Women and the Left in the Forging of the Auto Workers' Union by Sol Dollinger and Genora Johnson Dollinger (Foreword by Kim Moody)

Labor Pains
LABOR PAINS: Inside America’s New Union Movement by Suzan Erem

MEATPACKERS: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality by Rick Halpern and Roger Horowitz

Worked to the Bone
WORKED TO THE BONE: Race, Class, Power, and Privilege in Kentucky by Pem Davidson Buck

Why Unions Matter
WHY UNIONS MATTER by Michael D. Yates

Naming the System
NAMING THE SYSTEM: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy by Michael D. Yates

Railroading Economics
RAILROADING ECONOMICS: The Creation of the Free Market Mythology by Michael Perelman

Stagnation and the Financial Explosion

The Amoral Elephant
THE AMORAL ELEPHANT: Globalization and the Struggle for Social Justice in the Twenty-First Century by William K. Tabb

A History of Capitalism
A HISTORY OF CAPITALISM: 1500 – 2000 (New Edition) by Michel Beaud

Ecology against Capitalism

Hungry for Profit
HUNGRY FOR PROFIT: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment edited by Fred Magdoff, John Bellamy Foster, and Frederick H. Buttel

Killing Me Softly
KILLING ME SOFTLY: Toxic Waste, Corporate Profit, and the Struggle for Environmental Justice by Eddie J. Girdner and Jack Smith

The Next Liberation Struggle
THE NEXT LIBERATION STRUGGLE: Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in Southern Africa by John S. Saul

The Fiction of a Thinkable World
WE ARE THE POOR: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Ashwin Desai

Township Politics
TOWNSHIP POLITICS: Civic Struggles for a New South Africa by Mzwanele Mayekiso

Return to the Source: Selected Speeches of Amilcar Cabral
RETURN TO THE SOURCE: Selected Speeches of Amilcar Cabral

Bush versus Chávez
BUSH VERSUS CHÁVEZ: Washington's War on Venezuela
by Eva Golinger


Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution
UNDERSTANDING THE VENEZUELAN REVOLUTION: Hugo Chavez Talks to Marta Harnecker by Hugo Chavez and Marta Harnecker (translated by Chesa Boudin)

Che Guevara
REMINISCENCES OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR by Che Guevara (translated by Victoria Ortiz)

Last Resorts
LAST RESORTS: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean (New Edition) by Polly Pattullo

Faces of the Caribbean

Open Veins of Latin America
Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
by Eduardo Galeano (Translated by Cedric Belfrage, with New Introduction by Isabel Allende)


Days and Nights of Love and War

Faces of Latin America
FACES OF LATIN AMERICA by Duncan Green (Third Edition, Updated and Revised )

The Latin American City

Dialectical Urbanism
DIALECTICAL URBANISM: Social Struggles in the Capitalist City by Andy Merrifield

Humanitarian Imperialism
HUMANITARIAN IMPERIALISM: Using Human Rights to Sell War by Jean Bricmont

Pox Americana
POX AMERICANA: Exposing the American Empire edited by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney

Eastern Cauldron
EASTERN CAULDRON: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq
in a Marxist Mirror
by Gilbert Achcar


Fool's Crusade
FOOLS’ CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions by Diana Johnstone

The Cold War and the New Imperialism
by Henry Heller


Imperialism without Colonies

Inside Lebanon
INSIDE LEBANON: Journey to a Shattered Land with Noam and Carol Chomsky (Ed. Assaf Kfoury)

Toward an Open Tomb
The Crisis of Israeli Society
by Michel Warschawski

The Bottom of the Barrel:
A Review of Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done about It

by Samuel Grove


Paul Collier, in an attempt to bring development economics to a wider audience, has written a book that departs from what he calls the "grim apparatus of professional scholarship."  The result is a book that is almost entirely unverifiable.  What is verifiable turns out to be an elaborate fiction.  Collier's thesis is based upon the notion that globalization (that he defines in neoliberal terms) has brought prosperity to four fifths of the world; including the four billion that comprises the "middle income" countries.  To reach this conclusion he has included India and China, two countries that have resisted the neoliberal straitjacket.  He has further inflated his results by measuring economic growth by population.  Collier's statistics, though inaccurate, are not even a measure of poverty to begin with.  Any index of poverty would have shown that global poverty has increased during his "golden age" of globalization.  His economic proposals represent a continuation of the neoliberal structural adjustment programs instituted by the IMF during the 1980s and 1990s, programs that have proved disastrous for the countries that have instituted them.  Collier tacitly accepts that his proposals would be met with resistance, he therefore passes the responsibility for implementation to the countries of the G8.  He also proposes that the West, led by the US and Britain, vastly expand its military presence in Africa.  In making this case he paints an extremely distorted picture of Britain and the US's post-war record.  Unfortunately we must take Collier's grim proposals seriously as the agenda he lays out is a part of a wider imperial project to lock Africa into the US sphere away from the looming presence of China.

In The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier argues that while the last thirty years have brought growth and prosperity to four fifths of the world, the "bottom billion," which make up the poorest countries (predominantly in Africa), have been caught in traps of poverty, corruption, economic mismanagement, populism, and violence that have combined to prevent them from reaping the benefits of globalization.  Having made this case he goes on to offer his strategies for solving these problems.  There are quite an extraordinary number of problems with this book which require detailing.  For the purposes of clarity I have divided these problems into three sections: the scholarly, the economic, and the political.

The Scholarly

In spite of the fact that this book was published by Oxford University Press, this is not a scholarly work.  In the preface Collier states:

This book is an attempt to shift thinking; it is written to be read, and so I have kept clear of footnotes and the rest of the usual grim apparatus of professional scholarship (xiii).1

When he says he has avoided footnotes he does not mean that he has plugged for endnotes.  He means he has steered clear of references altogether.  "But" he adds. . .

. . . don't let that lead you to conclude that what I have to say is just a load of froth.  Underpinning the book are a mass of technical papers published in professional journals and subject to blind refereeing.  I list some of them at the end of the book (xiii).

Unfortunately it is unclear which of the "mass of technical papers" listed underpins which arguments.  Turning to the bibliography at the back of the book one finds that the only work he has listed is his own, therefore there is no indication of the scholarship he has drawn from to write the book.  Not only has Collier omitted references, he has been willfully furtive regarding his sources in the main text.  It is rare, for example, that he provide the name of a scholar whose work he is drawing from.  Instead it is sufficient merely to state their profession.2  Collier is particularly fond of attacking unnamed adversaries on "the left."  Those on the left are referred to as "politically motivated" (18), "politically engaged" (18), or "politicised" (19) -- all bywords for bias.  At other times he refers to them as the "headless heart" (156, 159) or "Marxists" (41, 71, 159).3  Interestingly on the one occasion that Collier does name who he is attacking (Christian Aid) it is on the basis of academic standards (157-159).  Collier rails against Christian Aid for publishing a document on free trade that had not been peer reviewed (it is unclear whether The Bottom Billion, stripped as it is of references, was peer reviewed, although it appears unlikely).  Having taken issue with the document's criticism of free trade, Collier bypasses the arguments in question in favor of delivering McCarthyite slurs:

I do not know whether this is simply an example of the headless heart. . .  It may instead be that its advocacy department has been infiltrated by Marxists . . . the most depressing explanation I have heard came from an expert at the Department of Trade and Industry, who had better stay nameless.  His account was: "They know it's crap but it sells T-shirts."  As I write, it is too early to tell which situation it is -- confused Christians, infiltrating Marxists, or corporate marketing executives (159).

For their part Christian Aid responded both to the original criticisms from Collier4 (in a letter to the Financial Times5) and the comments he made in The Bottom Billion.6  However it is worth keeping in mind over the course of this review that Collier regards prominent economists and organizations that fall short of academic standards as "having power without responsibility" (159).  Collier's use of terms like "Marxist" and "headless heart" signify more than mere ad hominem slurs.  They represent the unmasking of malign actors in development economics -- actors within the discourse that are participating on false pretences who should be disqualified from the debate entirely:

[When] I give the message to an NGO audience they get uneasy for . . . different reason[s].  Many of them do not want to believe that for the majority of the developing world global capitalism is working.  They hate capitalism and do not want it to work. (190)

Maintaining the anonymity of scholars is one thing.  It is quite another to maintain the anonymity of the countries that one is analyzing; and yet that is exactly what Collier does.  He explains:

I have identified fifty eight countries that fall into [the bottom billion] group . . . because this is not company that countries are keen to be in, and because stigmatizing a country tends to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, I will not present a list of these countries.  Rather, I will give plenty of examples in each of the traps.7

One can only wonder whether Collier has found statistics for the number of countries that have failed economically after World Bank economists have said they are failing.  While Collier does indeed use some select examples, "plenty" is more than misleading.  On the occasions that he does not use examples it is virtually impossible to understand his argument, let alone assess it.  A particularly extreme example of Collier's obfuscation is in Chapter 2: The Conflict Trap.  Drawing from an "American political scientist" who compiled a "comprehensive" list of coups in Africa (no more information provided); and adding it to his own study of causes of Civil Wars (published: Collier, P & Hoeffler, A. 'Greed and Grievance in Civil War,' Oxford Economic Papers 54 (2004): 563-595) with a further study he did on the causes of coups "around the world" (which is unpublished and unavailable); he reaches the conclusion that countries are incapable of escaping the "conflict traps" and "coup traps" on their own (35-6).  When not reporting on unnamed scholar's conclusions about unnamed countries, Collier reports private conversations he has had with unnamed officials.8  Perhaps the most suspect of Collier's habits is his tendency to use studies he has carried out that have not been published.  While he admits that these studies have not been, or are yet to be, peer reviewed he readily adds that he is "sufficiently confident" (36) in the results or that the "comments have been sufficiently encouraging" (123) for him to state their conclusions (minus the results).  On a few occasions he has named his sources and I have been able to check them.  Naturally I was looking for evidence that Collier had engaged with the established literature of his field, even if it was to refute it.  What I found was that Collier's research had not stretched beyond his immediate colleagues and students.  Aderoju Oyefusi for example wrote his paper on the causes of rebellion in the delta region in Nigeria based upon Collier's work.  On the opening page Oyefusi thanks Collier for his "encouraging comments on earlier drafts."9  Sometimes Collier's narrow use of literature results in his inadvertent referencing of his own data under the guise of secondary literature.  One of the studies that Collier refers to (and I was able to find), is one in which the authors reserve special gratitude to Collier for allowing them to use his data.10  Collier rails against "politically motivated" academics and yet shows a remarkable lack of discernment regarding the organizations he uses to gather information.  Far be it from me to accuse Collier personally of political bias.  However, is it possible that political organizations are affecting his results?  I picked out three potential candidates.  When analyzing freedom of the press Collier uses measurements from Freedom House (48).  Freedom House was founded in the midst of the Cold War.  In recent years it has attracted political conservatives and its board of trustees includes a who's who of neoconservative politicians, business people, and academics.  The organization receives roughly 95% of its funding from US federal government.11  Another study on Civil Wars that Collier uses was funded by the United States Institute of Peace.12  USIP is a bipartisan organization funded by Congress and the board of directors are appointed by the US president.13  The USIP received hostile publicity a few years ago when President Bush appointed Daniel Pipes, a renowned Islamophobe to the board, a decision he was later forced to rescind.14  Finally some of Collier's work was carried out on behalf of the African Economic Research Consortium (84).  The AERC is funded by numerous organizations that include USAID, The Department for International Development, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The World Bank.15  It could be argued, to Collier's cost, that information independent from direct government influence is more reliable than information that is not.  However the real issue is Collier's brazen double standards.  Implicit to Collier's argument is that "political motivations" are exclusive to those "sympathetic to the acute grievances" of those opposed to government (18-19).  Western governments and the international organizations they administer (such as the World Bank) on the other hand are peculiarly able to rise above politics, because the democratic systems in place ensure "the selection of politicians according to their intrinsic motivation to serve the public" (46).  The preceding quote required re-reading lest I had mistook Collier's subservience to power for self parody.  However, this statement is integral to Collier's argument.  For example, it is only with the help of the preceding statement that the reader could possibly make sense of the following extract:

At the less politicised end of the academic profession . . . our work has been taken seriously and frequently cited.  We reached the policy world -- I was invited to address the General Assembly of the United Nations -- and have been featured in the media. . .  We were also asked to use our model to predict where the next civil wars would be -- the CIA was apparently interested (19).

If an academic makes the unusual statement that the side of the academic world that has close relational, financial, ideological (not to mention political) ties to the "the policy world" and "the CIA" are at the less politicized end of the spectrum, one would hope that he would support it with a considered argument.  None is forthcoming.  This extract is by no means an anomaly.  The book is full of naked statements and non sequiturs.  Here are a few of them:

On the recent economic failures in Eastern Europe:

If you want to understand why some countries of the former Soviet Union have done well while others are becoming failing states, a pretty good guide is geography.  The further away from the EU and so the less credible the prospect of EU membership, the worse they have done (139).16

On the causes of the Second World War:

[For] those who hate globalisation, the retreat of trade, capital flows, and migration during the period 1914-45 should be interesting because they are a kind of a natural experiment.  Unfortunately, they were a ghastly experiment: the reversal of globalisation, though feasible, looks massively undesirable based on the one occasion when we did it. (81)


In the 1930s the world sleepwalked into the avoidable catastrophe of World War II because electorates in the United States and Europe were too lazy to think beyond the populist recipes of isolationism and pacifism.  These mistakes led to the slaughter of their children (176).

On the political commitment to development:

. . . heads of government are surprisingly keen to take on development as a public objective.  Think of the eagerness of George Bush to share a platform with Bono (188).

Given Collier's unholy habit for of making these types of statements, it is peculiar that on the crucial question of the statistics of global poverty (upon which his book is predicated no less), his confidence should lapse and he should appeal to the reader's trust that his statistics are accurate ("for the moment take it on trust that I have drawn the [poverty] lines defensibly" [6].)  Unfortunately for Collier, these statistics are some of the few used in his book that can be checked against credible sources.  On this note we move on to the substance of his economic argument.

The Economic

In academia it is almost a rhetorical necessity to give due credence to the complexity of the issue one is addressing.  That apart from being a truism (the world is a complex place), it impresses upon the audience the magnitude of what one is undertaking.  It also offers a pre-emptive defense to one's detractors who might accuse you of simplification.  Nonetheless some of Collier's rhetorical flourishes do appear promising.  In his conclusion he emphasizes that "not everything is appropriate everywhere" (176).  He adds that successful development will "require a customized strategy."  The same approach "is not going to work everywhere" (190).  He even appears to emphasize the importance of governments in poor countries charting their own course of development and adhering to democratic precepts: "Governments in the countries of the bottom billion need to develop strategies appropriate to their circumstances" (190), as well as to "learn to rule by consent" (177).  These two principles of economic development -- pragmatism and democratic autonomy -- would sound progressive to many critics of IMF/World Bank who have argued strongly against the "one-size-fits-all" neoliberal prescriptions.17  Critics have also emphasized the importance of democratic participation in global institutions based on consent rather than coercion.18  However when we address the substance of Collier's argument, he departs starkly from these two principles.

The question Collier poses is -- why have the "bottom billion" not shared in globalization's success?  Collier posits three processes of globalization; trade, capital inflows, and migration.  In all three cases, according to Collier, the "bottom billion" have "missed the boat" (80).

Trade: According to Collier, the boom in growth among developing "middle income" countries was a result of trade liberalization.  Liberalization has had the twin effects of making the market more competitive and (citing Paul Krugman and Tony Venables19) sparking new centers of economies of agglomeration20 (82-4).21  However, at the crucial stage of liberalization, Asia's competitive advantages conspired to exclude the "bottom billion" from the opportunities bestowed by free trade.

Capital: Collier concedes that private capital inflows can be a "mixed blessing" because they are prone to fluctuation.  However in normal circumstances free capital flows "generate mutual gains."  The free flow of capital has been critical to the success of globalization: "Workers in developing countries get jobs and increased wages, and the firms that move capital to developing countries get higher returns on it" (88).22   Unfortunately the "bottom billion," unlike "middle income" countries, has been unable to attract foreign investment.

Migration: Collier distinguishes between two types of migration.  Migration of the "educated" and the "uneducated."  He explains "education [is] a form of wealth" making educated people "human capital" (93).  The emigration of educated people from the "bottom billion" countries then constitutes a form of capital flight which causes great harm.  Emigration of the "uneducated" however is an "equalizer" as it encourages remittances (93).23  Collier cites the importance of this type of migration to India's recent breakthrough into world markets as well as the historical importance of migration for countries like the US (93).

Having cited the global prosperity accrued from free trade policies, Collier remains sceptical about whether global free trade will help the "bottom billion."  This is not due to any theoretical flaw in free trade principles.  Rather free trade is in a position to be corrupted by the malevolent interests of China "who are none too sensitive when it comes to matters of governance" (86).  Also, what the "bottom billion" requires is free trade with rich countries with which they have a competitive advantage in labor costs.  Therefore Collier proposes the "bottom billion" be provided with trade protection from Asia: "[We] have to face up to the fact that . . . competing with China and India is going to be difficult" (191), "[therefore] goods and services exported from the bottom billion to the rich world markets [should] pay lower tariffs than the same goods coming from Asia" (167).

Having sidelined China and India, the "bottom billion" are free to reap the rewards of liberalized trade with Europe and North America, enabling them to "break into the export market" (167) and attract foreign investment.24  Collier's interpretation of globalization's success and his proposal for a regional free trade bloc with the rich world is consistent with a neoliberal stance on international relations.  He also shares a neoliberal perspective on domestic economic policies -- in particular that free market competition is always appropriate:

[We] know what produces productivity growth in manufacturing: it is competition. . .  Bottom billion firms have faced very little competition.  They have been protected from external competition. . .  The quiet life that bottom billion firms have enjoyed has been paid by ordinary people. (160-161)

"Converging" the "bottom billion" with the neoliberal model, Collier argues, will provide the "bottom billion" with the impetus to share in the success of globalization.

Testing Collier's Thesis

Collier's prescription for the "bottom billion" is predicated on the idea that such reforms have been successful for the "middle income" countries.  The natural place to begin in testing Collier's thesis is, therefore, to ask if such reforms have been as successful as Collier asserts.  The difficulty of the challenges facing the "bottom billion" have, according to Collier, contributed to widespread misconceptions regarding the effects of globalization.  Addressing his reader he writes, "You personally may be well informed about trade, but if so you are in a minority; in general rich-country electorates are deeply misinformed"(157).  Collier's central proposition, that globalization has been an enormous success story for most of the globe, is indeed a bold one and would, if true, be news to many people:

The Third World has shrunk.  For forty years the development challenge has been a rich world of one billion people facing a poor world of five billion people . . . [however now] most of the five billion, about 80%, live in countries that are indeed developing, often at amazing speed. (3)

A few pages later he provides the statistics to back up this claim:

[The] middle four billion . . . have experienced rapid and accelerating growth in per capita income.  Let's take it decade by decade.  During the 1970s they grew at 2.5% a year, hopeful but not remarkable.  During the 1980s and the 1990s their growth rate accelerated to 4% a year.  During the first few years of the twenty-first century it accelerated again to over 4.5%.  These growth rates may not sound sensational, but they are without precedent in history. (8)

Collier's statistics showing the successes of globalization and free trade stand in direct opposition to standard statistics of this period (including those of the IMF and the World Bank).  Ha Joon Chang in Bad Samaritans for example writes

During the 1960s and 1970s . . . per capita income in the developing countries grew by 3.0% annually.  [This is] the best that they have ever recorded.  Since the 1980s . . . they grew at only about half the speed seen in the 1960s and the 1970s (1.7%).  Growth slowed down in the rich countries too, but the slowdown was less marked (from 3.2% to 2.1%).25

How can we reconcile the two?  Collier explains that he has used an alternative approach; one that he argues is more sensitive to the plight of the poor (8-9).

[We] have to disaggregate the statistics that have been used in the past to describe all the countries that we label as "developing."  Here's a hypothetical example Prosperia has a big economy that is growing at 10 percent, but the country has only a small population.  Catastrophia is a small economy declining at 10 percent, but it has a large population.  The usual approach -- employed, for example, by the IMF -- is to average figures that relate to the size of a country's economy.  On this approach, Prosperia's large, growing economy skews the average upward, and so in aggregate the two countries are described as growing.  The problem is that this describes what is going on from the perspective of the typical unit of income, not from the perspective of the typical person. . .  If we want to describe what the typical person experiences in the countries of the bottom billion, we need to work with figures based not on a country's income but on its population (8-9).

Hypothetical of course is the operative word.  The reality is the precise opposite of Collier's hypothetical example: the two countries that have been growing the fastest over the last thirty years also have the highest population -- India and China.  India (with a population of 1.1 billion) has been growing at 5% a year or more for the last two decades.26  China (with a population of 1.3 billion) has had an average annual growth rate of 7% per year during the same period.27  Is this important?  Well it is if India and China's development strategies have been markedly different from the rest of the countries that comprise Collier's middle four billion.

India and China's "Miracle"

It is beyond the scope of this review to chart India and China's economic growth in detail.  Instead what I will try and do is draw the reader's attention to ways in which they have adapted to globalization which depart both from the other "middle income" countries and Collier's prescriptions for the "bottom billion."  To begin with, history has played an important part in China and India's current growth.  Both are profiting from long periods of protectionism that enabled domestic infrastructure and manufacturing to develop to a level at which they could compete internationally.  In India, during the period after independence, the government invested heavily in building up an indigenous industrial base under the "aegis of the public sector."28  In the last two decades China and India have liberalized their economies.  However, what the examples of India and China show, according to Chang, is the "importance of strategic rather than unconditional, integration with the global economy."29  China in particular has, according to Stiglitz, "managed globalisation carefully"30 with an emphasis on state intervention and macroeconomic planning.  This has been particularly important during global economic downturns:

China achieved [stability] by following the prescriptions of economic orthodoxy.  These were not the Hooverite IMF prescriptions, but the standard prescriptions that economists have been teaching for more than half a century: When faced with an economic downturn, respond with expansionary macroeconomic policy. . .  There were large opportunities for public investments with high returns. . .  The standard medicines worked and China averted a growth slowdown.31

On the issue of trade China have been "slow to open up its own markets for imports" and prohibited the entry of "hot speculative money."32  Both China and India have been prudent with liberalization, restricting "short term capital flows."33  This in particular was critical in their avoidance of the global financial crisis of 1997-8.34  Furthermore, and in direct contradiction to Collier's position, China has shown that capital market liberalization is not a prerequisite to attracting funds.35  Liberalisation in China and India has been a slow gradual process, in marked contrast to IMF structural adjustment programs in other countries.  India, especially, is profiting from piecemeal reforms that preceded the 1990s.  It is on this basis that Stiglitz argues that India's upturn began before liberalization:

The issue is whether liberalization -- the so called neoliberal agenda, which is particularly associated with the prime minister when he was the finance minister that began in 1991 what he called liberalization -- . . . was the source of economic growth or whether there were a number of other factors, of which liberalisation may have played a role, but it was only one of several factors and perhaps not even the most important one. . .  When you look at the timing (this period of growth began in the 1980s) . . . you come away with the sense that liberalisation was not the most important factor.36

Above all India and China's achievements have been predicated on charting their own independent course.  In India the gradualism of reform is a product of democratic processes; as Prabhat Patnaik explains,

The fact that India did not reform very rapidly is not because the reformers did not want to reform rapidly.  It so happens that in India you had substantial opposition [which restrains] government.  So in India what has happened is really through the opposition that the reformers have been slowed down.  Many of those that assert the success of the reforms to their gradualism are not those in favor of gradualism to start with.  It happens that they are making a virtue out of a necessity.37

China is a highly undemocratic and repressive society.  Nevertheless recent years have seen increases in popular protest.  According to official government sources in 2005 alone there were eighty-seven thousand large protests involving more than 4 million workers and peasants.38  Naomi Klein reports that while this has been met with "extreme state repression" it has boasted a number of achievements.  These include greater spending in "rural areas," "better health care," and pledges to "eliminate education fees."39  On the international arena, China has treated their sovereignty seriously, not following any of the "Western prescriptions" other than "macroeconomic stability."40  This involved specific cases in which they resisted US treasury demands.41

Collier's globalization statistics rely upon the two countries that have resisted neoliberalism.42  To illustrate just how reliant he is, in 1980 India and China accounted for 12% of total developing country income.  By 2000 it was 30%.43  It is misleading to incorporate India and China into statistics measuring the effects of neoliberalism.  To compound this initial confusion by factoring India and China's enormous populations into the equation renders his statistics virtually meaningless.  In fact this is only the beginning of Collier's distortions.


The more observant readers will have noticed that the debate so far has not actually dealt with poverty figures at all.  Rather it has concentrated on economic growth.  For Collier the two entail each other because the "good times . . . inevitably trickle down to ordinary people" (41).  Railing against those that distinguish between growth and poverty, Collier recounts his experiences at the World Bank:

Nowadays the talk is about poverty reduction and the other Millennium Development Goals, not about growth rates.  Many of the people who care most about development feel more comfortable talking about goals such as getting girls into school than discussing growth.  While I was directing the World Bank's research department, the most controversial paper we produced was one called "Growth Is Good for the Poor."  Some NGOs hated it, and it was the only time in five years that Jim Wolfensohn, the Bank's president, phoned me to voice his concern.  Yet the central problem of the bottom billion is that they have not grown.  The failure of the growth process in these societies simply has to be our core concern, and curing it the core challenge of development.  For policies in the rich world to become more supportive of growth in these societies, we will need the full lobbying power of those who care about the world's poor.  And so the people who care will need to take another look at growth (11).

The problem with Collier's argument is that it is demonstrably false.  GDP per capita is simply not a poverty index.  It is axiomatic that GDP measures economic activity within a country, not the income of it citizens.  Therefore it is possible (and even common) for a country's GDP to go up, but for the standard of living of the majority of its citizens to go down.  This is as true for advanced industrial countries as it is for the poorest countries.44  This is indeed what has been happening in almost all of Collier's "middle income" countries and even includes the economic miracle that is India.  On this point it is worth quoting Patnaik at length:

This entire line of argument (that economic growth equals poverty reduction) is based on falsehoods. . .  [W]hen growth is the fallout of accumulation through encroachment, the claim that higher growth results in poverty reduction becomes a baseless one.  If Latin America and Africa, where even the growth claims are extremely modest, provide classic illustrations of the poverty-accentuating effects of neo-liberal policies, India too does precisely the same.  Just one figure would suffice to make the point.  The proportion of the rural population in India which had a consumption level of less than 2400 calories per person per day (the traditional standard index of poverty in India) was 75 percent in 1999-2000 compared to 56 percent according to similar data in 1973-74. . .  The accentuation of rural poverty in India during precisely the years of the neo-liberal regime when growth rates are claimed to have been remarkably high, underscores the vacuity of the arguments justifying neo-liberalism in the name of fighting poverty.45

India's economic miracle has, as their most distinguished journalist P Sainath reports, seen them drop to 94th in the Global Hunger Index (and that is out of 118 countries) and to 128th in the Human Development Index (behind Bolivia, a country Collier includes in his "bottom billion" [7]).46  India is not alone in experiencing a rise in poverty in the last three decades of globalization.  In fact, as Chang notes, neoliberal programs were implemented "more thoroughly" in Latin America and Africa than in Asia and the effects on their growth and standard of living have been disastrous.  Chang states that the record of Africa (comprising most of Collier's "bottom billion") is a particularly "damning indictment" of neoliberalist programs, as most African economies have been practically run by the IMF and the World Bank over the past quarter of a century.  Once we exclude China, who has been successful in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in recent years, the impact of neoliberalism is clear:

[Poverty] in the developing world has increased.  Some 40 percent of the world's 6.5 billion people live in poverty (a number that is up 36 percent from 1981), a sixth -- 877 million -- live in extreme poverty (3 percent more than in 1981).47

Collier's book should be called The Bottom 3 Billion: Why Neoliberalism Is Failing and What Can Be Done about It.  Instead, Collier's explanation for the failure of neoliberal policies in Africa is not they have been disastrous in themselves, rather they are a result of bad luck ("Nigeria's best phase of economic policy was the reform phase of the late 1980s, but the benefits of these reforms were completely swamped by the coincident crash in the world price of oil" [64-65]48) and lingering protectionist policies that have offset the benefits of neoliberal reform (ie. the reforms have not been neoliberal enough).  On this last point Collier reserves criticism for policies of the rich world:

[T]here are some indefensible aspects of OECD trade policy.  The least defensible . . . is the protection of agriculture.  We waste our own money for subsidizing the production of crops that then close off opportunities for people who have few alternatives (159-160).

While the single occasion in the book when Collier applies the same standards to the rich world that he does to the "bottom billion" must be commended, it is worth remembering that he is proposing such deregulation during a world food crisis, a crisis that, as Raj Patel points out, is a direct consequence of free trade:

Countries from Haiti to Senegal to Burkina Faso to India, are largely hitched to an international economy where they have to import grain in order to be able to consume it.  And this is a consequence of the US pushing a so-called free trade agenda, where countries are being forced to lower their tariff barriers, to stop protecting farmers.  And as a result, what you're seeing is that the countries that are worst affected by this are the ones that have most enthusiastically been forced to embrace free trade.49

The current food crisis offers an insight into the problems of wealth concentration and poverty that The Bottom Billion is designed to address.  Frances Moore Lappé, in a recent article in The Huffington Post, argues that the food crisis is part of a more general crisis of democracy:

For years, the world's more-than-ample supply of food -- keeping well ahead of population growth -- has left over 800 million hungry.  Because we've not grasped the root causes, today's prices risk pushing another one hundred million people into the ranks of the hungry.  No amount of lifting of agricultural trade barriers will address this longstanding, now intensified, crisis.  How could this extreme and worsening inequality happen?  Because of our thin concept of democracy -- that elected government plus a one-rule economy (highest return to existing wealth) are all we need to meet human needs.  As a result, economic and political power concentrate in such a way that policies emerge which defy the values and common-sense of most citizens.50

Interestingly those countries that resisted liberalization, and are therefore being spared the severest effects of the current food crisis, come in for particular criticism from Collier.  Cuba for example, despite being very poor and on the receiving end of a crippling embargo, has remained an impressive 51st on the Human Development Index and has better healthcare provision than the United States.  Nonetheless Collier writes:

We cannot make poverty history unless the countries of the bottom billion start to grow, and they will not grow by turning them into Cuba.  Cuba is a stagnant, low income, egalitarian country with good social services.  If the bottom billion emulated Cuba, would this solve their problems?  I think that the vast majority of the people living in the bottom billions -- and indeed in Cuba -- would see it as a continued failure.

Tracing Profits?

Not only does growth disguise poverty levels, when it is measured as GDP, it also hides the destination of profits, as Stiglitz reports:

[There] is a difference between GDP and GNP.  About 1990 [the World Bank and IMF] switched to GDP.  GDP looks at the output within the country.  GNP looks at the income of the people in the country.  Well when you started privatising a great deal you had economic activity within the country, but the income from that economic activity more and more going to people outside the country.  So you have a mine . . . [with] royalties in some cases of 1 or 2%.  So almost none of the income from the mine goes to the people in the country.  So GDP is going up, but any measure of GNP will show the country going down.51

The fact that Collier's accounting frameworks do not indicate that profits accumulated from foreign investments will often leave the countries of origin is noteworthy for critics like myself, but a serious cause of concern for the people living on the receiving end of the policies and interests he represents.  It allows him, for instance, to describe foreign ownership of Nigerian oil reserves, without any sense of irony, as a form of aid.  In his chapter entitled "Aid To the Rescue?" he cites Nigeria as an example of a country where "foreign aid" has failed.

The world has already conducted a natural experiment in giving the countries of the bottom billion a huge injection of budget support.  It is called oil . . . for instance Nigeria has received something of the order of $280 billion.  This is far larger than any realistic scale of aid to a bottom billion country.  Yet Nigeria has depressingly little to show for it (101).

In actual fact we all have cause for concern regarding the accounting frameworks that Collier uses.  Environmentalists have criticized a preoccupation with growth for the fact that it is unsustainable.52  Not only does Collier omit even a passing reference to sustainability, his vision of development, one of "material comfort, global travel, and economic interdependence," is one that belies a total ignorance of looming environmental catastrophe (3-4).  One of his suggestions for landlocked countries is a vast expansion of short haul flights:

Air transport is much more important than it used to be.  There are significant economies of scale in air transport, in this respect [they] are at a disadvantage because they are small markets . . . however low costs are possible even at a modest scale, the key is deregulation.  More generally the landlocked need cost cutting companies like Ryanair, EasyJet and Southstate airlines.  What they had is staggeringly expensive and badly run airlines (60).

With respect to global warming, Collier appears to be living in a bubble.  With respect to global poverty Collier appears to be living in a bizarre fantasy world.  His book is predicated on the thesis that the "bottom billion" is being left behind by "five billion people who are already prosperous, or at least are on track to be so" (3).  In fact the reverse is true.  Poverty has increased over the period that he cites.  However, Collier's economics provide only one component of his development strategy for the "bottom billion."  Collier argues that in a large proportion of cases, economic reforms will have to be formulated, implemented, and sustained by political intervention from the outside.

The Political

Having stated that countries of the "bottom billion" need to learn to "rule by consent" (177), Collier is sceptical of the merits of democracy.  Collier's assertion that democracy is failing in many of the poorest countries would not garner much controversy.  However, Collier goes further to suggest that remedying the democratic deficit in many of these countries is unlikely to improve policy formation -- "[a]mong the many characteristics that [do] not seem to matter one way or the other [are] democracy and political rights" (71) -- and in fact it may even be counterproductive : "democracy undermine[s] the ability to harness resource surpluses" (44) as ". . . oil and other surpluses from natural resources are particularly unsuited to the pressures generated by electoral competition"(43).53  Collier's ambivalent attitude to democracy is paired with a positive antipathy to the idea that the state or democratic institutions can have a positive role to play in the economy.  In fact intervention by such institutions is synonymous with poor governance as they "induce an excessively large public sector with . . . too many white elephant projects" (44).  Inefficiency is only part of the story.  Invariably state intervention is rooted in corruption:

Why do governments of the bottom billion typically adopt high trade barriers?  Partly because they are one of the key sources of corruption.  On the grand scale, governments confer protection on the businesses owned by their friends and relations, or ones paying for privilege (161).

The "checks and balances" (46) Collier is in favor of are those derived, not from democratic processes, but from the free market (49).  Collier again uses the example of Nigeria where ". . . massive increase[s] in the cost of a dam generated by the transition to unrestrained electoral competition [contrasted with] a massive reduction in costs generated by [the] basic restraints of [competitive bidding]" (49).

Collier's suspicion of democracy among the "bottom billion" is not confined to fears of executive excess.  It extends to the functioning of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Governments have their own judicial system, but it is hardly reassuring for investors if their only defence is through the courts of the government that has confiscated their investment (154).

Policies and governance that deviate from the neoliberal model fit Collier's definition of a failed state --"I have defined a failing state in terms of its bad policies and governance" (72) -- and thereby qualifies it for intervention.

Economic Intervention

If governments of the "bottom billion" frequently fall short of implementing the correct development strategy, whose responsibility is it to intervene?  Unfortunately the IMF and World Bank are prohibited from "involvement in political matters" (186).  The most likely candidate, the UN, Collier deems institutionally inadequate for this task.  Nonetheless development requires coordinated action by the international community (13).  "The only forum for doing this at present is the G854" (189).  Fortunately the forum is made up of the "major heads of government" which makes the problem of the "bottom billion" an "ideal topic" for them to address (13).  It is worth pausing to reflect upon just what Collier is proposing here.  Having dismissed national democracy as a hindrance to development, he goes on to discount a role for any democratic accountability in the international arena as well.  The economic intervention he proposes includes A Charter for Investment that could safeguard neoliberal reforms by ensuring "the same rules apply to domestic investors as foreign investors"(153).  As a means of enforcement he suggests an international adjudication body made up of the G8 nations (Collier is quick to stress that passing the rule of law from a country's own institutions to an outside body of self-appointed rich nations would "not be an affront to sovereignty" [154]55).  Or as an alternative he suggests widening the scope of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) which would provide foreign firms with insurance in the event of government "expropriation" (154).  This concludes the principal strands of Collier's economic proposals.

Military Intervention

In one of the more fallacious extracts in The Bottom Billion, Collier writes: "Somehow the colonial fantasy persists that we have hard power.  We don't, and we never will" (179).  However, Collier warns his readers that his ideas will "open horizons across the political divide" and that they will convince the left of "approaches it has discounted such as military interventions" (xi-xii).  How can we reconcile these two statements?  Well the short answer is we cannot.  What we can do however is identify the reasons why Collier prefers the latter option.  Collier rules out military intervention aimed at regime change on the grounds that it is not currently politically feasible.

Surely after Iraq the chances of a wealthy country attempting external military intervention to transform a badly governed resource-rich country are zero.  We can however, help to empower the reformers within the societies of the bottom billion. (179)

Collier believes military interventions are legitimate in three other cases.  These are 1) restoration of order, 2) maintaining post conflict peace, and 3) preventing coups.  Collier's three cases of justified military intervention are disconcertingly broad.  For example, "restoration of order" could apply to most countries ravaged by poverty.  Secondly, given Collier's antipathy to democracy, "maintaining post conflict peace" and "preventing coups" will probably entail western support for brutal dictators in wars against their own people.  In fact Collier's conditions for intervention are designed to be vague.  Given the dire state of the "bottom billion," the "international community" must "learn to be comfortable with infringing upon sovereignty" (178).  This same international community must be prepared to accept that intervention may be prolonged:

Security in post conflict societies will normally require an external military presence for a long time.  Both sending and recipient governments should expect this presence to last for a decade, and must commit to it (177).

The question remains, however, who should be responsible for carrying out such intervention?  Collier cites a number of reasons why most people's preferred option, the UN, is unsuited to the task.  To begin with, the UN, according to Collier (or more specifically an unnamed diplomatic official he spoke to), avoid sending peacekeepers to dangerous places, preferring safe havens instead:

I asked why there were so many peacekeepers in [East Timor].  The answer I got about summed up the problems of foreign military intervention: because it was safe there (127).

Collier is almost certainly aware of the history of East Timor; however just in case readers are not, it is worth repeating some of it here (not least because of what it tells us about Collier's designated global enforcers).  In 1975 Indonesia (under the rule of their dictator Suharto) invaded East Timor.56  In one of the worst cases of genocide in the post-war era, Suharto's forces, with the aid of British Hawk aircraft (paid for by British taxpayers), slaughtered 200,000 people.57  Nobel Prize winner Bishop Carlos Belo describes what happened accordingly as "a barbarous genocide of innocent people, apparently with complete peace of conscience. . .  [East Timor] is being wiped out by an invasion, a brutal conquest that produces heaps of dead, maimed and orphaned."58

As well as military aid, Britain also supplied diplomatic support to Suharto.  The British ambassador in Jakarta informed the Foreign Office in July 1975 that:

The people of Portuguese Timor are in no condition to exercise the right of self determination. . .  Developments in Lisbon now seem to argue in favour of greater sympathy towards Indonesia. . .  Certainly from here, it is in Britain's interest that Indonesia should absorb the territory . . . and if there is a row in the United Nations we should keep our heads down and avoid taking sides against the Indonesian government.59

British support for Suharto continued through the 1980s and 1990s (Margerat Thatcher described Suharto as "one of our very best and most valuable friends"60) as did the slaughter of the East Timorese.  The following testimony is from investigative journalist Allan Nairn in 1991:

When I returned to East Timor in October of this past year, the air of terror was more intense [than during my previous visits] and the repression was greater still.  The Indonesians were holding hundreds of meetings across the country, warning that those who spoke to the delegation would be killed.61

Describing the army's response to a peaceful demonstration at a cemetery Nairn reports

The soldiers rounded the corner, never breaking stride, raised their rifles, and fired in unison into the crowd.  Timorese were back-pedalling, gasping, trying to flee, but in seconds they were cut down by the hail of fire.  People fell, stunned and shivering, bleeding in the road, and the Indonesian soldiers kept on shooting.  I saw the soldiers aiming and shooting people in the back, leaping bodies to hunt down those who were still standing.  They executed schoolgirls, young men, old Timorese; the street was wet with blood, and the bodies were everywhere. 62

Given that Collier regards East Timor during this period as a safe place; perhaps he has the Indonesian army in mind in his vision of an effective use of force.  Unlike the Indonesian army, the "rag tag" (127) UN, too often err on the side of caution:

The imperative [for UN] soldiers [is that] they should not get themselves killed, so risky environments such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo are unattractive.  Even if troops are sent to dangerous places, they often play it safe . . . UN troops [are] an easy target because [they] carry their guns like tourists flaunting their jewellery (127).

He compares them poorly to the standards set by the British in Sierra Leone that was a "huge success" and more importantly "amazingly cheap" (127-8) and the US's invasion of Kuwait which was a triumph of "the new internationalism" (124).  One of the other reasons the UN is unsuitable for meeting the responsibility of intervention is that the Security Council responsible for authorizing the use of force is vulnerable to the "Chinese veto" (186).  One wonders whether Collier is aware of which country has the record for number of Security Council vetoes.  Behind the US (who is far out in the lead) are Britain, France, and then Russia (all members of G8).63  The US's use of the veto in particular has not been on trivial matters, it includes protecting and providing diplomatic immunity to "[wars of] aggression, harsh and brutal practices during decades-long military occupations [and] grave breaches of the Geneva Convention."64  Collier's grounds for unilateral military intervention, even if interpreted in the narrowest sense, constitute a gross violation of international law.  In particular his criteria for "intervention" make no mention of principles outlined in the UN Charter obligating international actors to "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples."65  Collier realizes this, and therefore formulates his argument on the basis of a rich world exceptionalism.  A rhetorical device peculiar to all empires66 as Noam Chomsky explains:

It is necessary [for empires] to create misimpressions . . . about one's unique nobility.  In particular, aggression and terror must be portrayed as self defence and dedication to inspiring visions.  Japanese emperor Hirohito was merely repeating a broken record when he said in his surrender speech of August 1945, "We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement."  The history of international crimes overflows with similar sentiments.  Writing in 1935, with the dark clouds of Nazism settling, Martin Heidegger declared that Germany must now forestall "the peril of world darkening" outside the borders of Germany.  With its "new spiritual energies" revived under Nazi rule, Germany was at last able "to take on its historic mission" of saving the world from "annihilation" at the hands of the "indifferent mass" elsewhere, primarily in the United States and Russia.67

The current era of American exceptionalism, when for the first time it became "possible for military intervention to be motivated" by noble "considerations," began after the end of the Cold War (124).  This view is shared by another advisor to Tony Blair, and pioneer of the philosophy of "humanitarian intervention" -- Robert Cooper.  Echoing Collier's sentiments (except he said them first), he argues the end of the Cold War signaled a new era in international relations.  He argues the globe is divided between three types of state.  "Premodern" -- "where the state has failed and a Hobbesian war of all against all is underway" (eg. Somalia).  Second there are "modern states" who behave following "Machiavellian principles" -- "one thinks of countries like India, Pakistan and China."  And thirdly postmodern states, (products of the "world becoming more honest," who "no longer see security in terms of conquest."68  The appropriate doctrine for this era is one based on "humanitarian intervention" Cooper calls "New Liberal Imperialism."  This doctrine dictates that rich nations operate on a principle of double standards:

The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards.  Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security.  But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era -- force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself.  Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.69

In spite of our obligation to use the laws of the jungle, we should never lose sight of the inherent moral purity of our actions.  Collier does not hold back in his praise of US interventions in Africa in recent years, describing them as "truly magnificent"(125).  Nonetheless Collier faces a problem.  If he is to maintain the illusion of British and American exceptionalism, he must go further than lauding select military interventions.  He must give Britain's and the US's post war record a clean bill of health.  He cannot, for example mention any of the countries America (or Britain for that matter) has helped to destroy in recent years.  The list is long and impressive; Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Diego Garcia, Indochina, Brazil, Nigeria, Chile, East Timor, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Kosovo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq.  Having vanquished whole swathes of history from the map, he can then set about inventing history from whole cloth.  To begin with his use of the phrase "military intervention" to describe British and American exploits is a peculiar one.  Do we, for example, talk of the Soviet "intervention" in Afghanistan?  Or the Nazi "military intervention" in Czechoslovakia?  We don't, but of course those countries were motivated by "different considerations."  They were not concerned with as noble a cause as securing "the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz."70  Alan Greenspan, for his part, was disappointed that political considerations conspired so that the public was largely incapable of seeing what a worthy cause the invasion of Iraq was: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."71  We learn from Collier that the 1990s began with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait (124).  This will come as a surprise to Panamanians who were under the impression that they had been invaded by the US just a few months before, an invasion which "killed unknown numbers of poor people in the bombarded slums, thousands according to the victims" in order to oust a tin pot dictator that Washington had supported for 20 years, right through his worst crimes.72  We learn also from Collier that the "spread of democracy is an explicit agenda -- indeed even the overarching agenda of the United States in the Middle East" (42).  It is difficult to tally this against the US's recent attacks on the people of Gaza for having committed the crime of voting the wrong way in a free and fair election; or with the US's support for brutal regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan.  Neither is it consistent with the US's policy in post-invasion Iraq where elections were postponed while Paul Bremer, Governor of the occupation, constructed Iraq's constitution.  Bremer's principal objective was to safeguard economic reforms favorable to US corporations (including imposing a flat tax on the country and giving US contractors immunity from Iraqi law) from democratic influence.  More recently the US's blackmailing of the Iraqi government, to secure contracts on Iraq's oil reserves for American companies, serves to suggest the precise opposite is true.73

In official circles, governments can afford to be more candid with regards to their foreign policy aims.  The Bush doctrine states that it reserves the right to "anticipatory self defence"74 with the hope of "dissuading potential adversaries from pursuing a military build up in hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States."75  The Clinton administration was no less concerned with addressing real and present dangers.  They advocated "unilateral use of military power" to defend vital interests, such as "ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources."76  These doctrines are reflected clearly in US history.  Securing US corporate interests abroad has comprised one of the fundamental components of US foreign policy over the past one hundred years.  New York Times journalist and author Stephen Kinzer in his book Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq argues that the invasion of Iraq "was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons."77  In an interview with Amy Goodman, Stephen Kinzer outlines the thesis of his book:

[What] I'm trying to do in my book is see [these events] not as a series of isolated incidents, but rather as one long continuum [in order] to tease out certain patterns that recur over and over again.  There's really a three-stage motivation that I can see when I watch so many of the developments of these coups. . .  The first thing that happens is that an American or a foreign corporation is active in another country, and the government of that country starts to restrict it in some way or give it some trouble, restrict its ability to operate freely.  Then, the leaders of that company come to the political leadership of the United States to complain about the regime in that country.  In the political process, in the White House, the motivation morphs a little bit.  The U.S. government does not intervene directly to defend the rights of a company, but they transform the motivation from an economic one into a political or geo-strategic one.  They make the assumption that any regime that would bother an American company or harass an American company must be anti-American, repressive, dictatorial, and probably the tool of some foreign power or interest that wants to undermine the United States.  So the motivation transforms from an economic to a political one, although the actual basis for it never changes.  Then, it morphs one more time when the U.S. leaders have to explain the motivation for this operation to the American people.  Then they portray these interventions as liberation operations, just a chance to free a poor oppressed nation from the brutality of a regime that we assume is a dictatorship, because what other kind of a regime would be bothering an American company?

On example among many is Chile.  In 1973 (on September 11th no less) the US orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende.  In the violence that followed the coup, 3,200 people were disappeared or executed, 80,000 were imprisoned and 200,000 people were forced to flee the country.78  Conspiring in this coup were Chicago School neoliberal economists who, in the build up to the coup, constructed a five hundred page manual of neoliberal reforms to be handed to the military junta once they took power.  What is strikingly novel about The Bottom Billion is not Collier's arguments -- rather it is his brazen honesty.  Having made the argument that the US and Britain are morally compelled to intervene in countries of the "bottom billion," he notes that peacekeeping also provides "reformers" with a vital opportunity.

There is the odd looking result that reform is more likely after civil war. . .  How can these two seemingly contradictory results be reconciled?  I think that they are telling us that post conflict situations are highly fluid. . .  This suggests that our policy interventions to help failing states need to differentiate between types of situations, treating post conflict situations as major opportunities (72-3).

Readers acquainted with Naomi Klein's new bestseller they will recognize immediately that this is a paradigmatic example of the "shock doctrine."  Klein defines the shock doctrine as

a philosophy of power.  It's a philosophy about how to achieve your political and economic goals.  And this is a philosophy that holds that the best way . . . to push through radical free-market ideas is in the aftermath of a major shock [like a war or military coup].  [The] idea . ..  is that these crises . . . soften up whole societies.  They discombobulate them.  People lose their bearings.  And a window opens up, just like the window in the interrogation chamber.  And in that window, you can push through what economists call "economic shock therapy."  That's sort of extreme country makeovers.  It's everything all at once.  It's not, you know, one reform here, one reform there, but the kind of radical change that we saw in Russia in the 1990s, [or] that Paul Bremer tried to push through in Iraq after the invasion.79

With all this history, Collier still maintains that granting the US the right to unilateral action is legitimate because it is "better for half a million Rwandans to have died than for eighteen Americans to be sacrificed"(126).  Unilateralism is also legitimate for maintaining our own safety:

The consequences of civil war spill over to the rich world in the form of epidemics, terrorism, and drugs.  Some citizens of the rich world are going to die as a result of chaos.  In July 2005 a [Somali asylum seeker] filled his rucksack with explosives and tried to blow up commuters on the London Underground.  In November 2005 a Somali gang murdered a policewoman in a bank robbery in Bradford.  I have a young son.  I don't want him exposed to the risk of being blown apart in London or shot in Bradford by some exile from a failing state (126).

The extracts above are unique moments in The Bottom Billion.  They represent the only time (beyond a generalized plea for the rich nations to help the poor) that Collier allows moral outrage to impinge on his framework of analysis.  A framework of analysis which replaces moral judgments with statistical data:

There is a way of getting to the answers, and it is statistical.  This stands in contrast to the crude images that often provide us with what we think we know about the world.  For rebellion, as an example, the image is often that of Che Guevara, ubiquitous in my generation as a poster on student walls.  The poster did our thinking for us.  Our notions about the problems of the poorest countries are saturated with such images: not just of noble rebels but of starving children, heartless businesses, crooked politicians.  You are held prisoner by these images.  While you are held prisoner, so are our politicians, because they do what you want.  I am going to take you beyond images.  Sometimes I am going to smash them.  And my image smasher is statistical evidence (xii).

His research on civil wars is particularly instructive in this regard.  In the opening to Chapter 2, Collier poses the question -- what causes civil war? (18)

Rebel movements themselves justify their actions in terms of a catalogue of grievances: repression, exploitation, exclusion.  Politically motivated academics have piled in with their own hobby horses, which usually cast rebels as heroes.  I have come to distrust this discourse of grievance as self-serving.  Our approach was to try to explain civil war statistically, looking at a range of possible causes: social, political, geographical, and economic (18).

In the case of public protests against western oil corporations in Nigeria:

Aderoju [Oyefusi] found no relationship between the social amenities that a district possessed and its propensity to political violence.  Instead, the violence occurred in the districts with oil wells.  The natural inference from this, given the prevailing discourse, is that this demonstrates that the oil companies are to blame because of all that environmental damage.  [However] if there are two oil wells in the district it starts to go down again.  That is odd because the environmental damage is presumably roughly proportional to the number of oil wells.  To my mind this looks more like a story of a protection racket than outrage provoked by environmental damage.  In the absence of an oil well there is no scope for extortion. (30)

"Politically motivated" readers might want to compare Collier's research with Jeremy Scahill and Amy Goodman's award winning documentary entitled "Drilling and Killing" (I have attached their follow up article, published in The Nation as an appendix).  Collier concludes that the statistical data shows that the discrimination an ethnic group suffers has no bearing on the capacity for that group to wage a civil war or participate in political violence.  Furthermore financially, organizationally, and politically weak central governments render insurgency more feasible.  Collier concedes:

. . . our work has proved controversial.  In part this is because the people attracted to the academic study of conflict tend to be politically engaged and are sympathetic to the acute grievances enunciated by various rebel movements, who often adopt extreme measures to oppose governments.  To such academics, the whole idea of investigating statistically whether there is a relationship between objective measures of grievance and a propensity to rebel is taken to be more or less an insult, since they know there is one.  Admittedly, we fanned the flames on occasion [by] implying that rebel motivations may just conceivably not be any more heroic than the governments they oppose. (18-19)

This paragraph might well be the most revealing of the entire book.  What it demonstrates, far from the left's inability to countenance "objective" causes to political violence, is Collier's inability to make a distinction between causes and effects and ethical responses to events.  Very few people would disagree that the capacity for a political group to act, and the strategies they might mobilize (whether social activists, freedom fighters, or terrorists), will be largely determined by "objective" circumstances.80  Collier must be virtually alone in believing that these objective measures should have any bearing on our moral judgments.  To put Collier's stance in its proper context, it logically follows from his argument that when the "objective measures" which make civil war possible are absent (like for example Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein) there is an absence of a problem.  One of Collier's "objective measures" is "material" self-interest (20-21) which dictates that "you simply can't trust the rebel discourse of concern for social justice"(22).  This puts Collier to the extreme.  Most do not make ethical judgments on campaigns for social justice based on whether the activists can be bought off by oil corporations.  Campaigns for social justice are judged on their own protocols -- whether their cause is just.  Whether or not Nigerian activists are being honest (which no amount of statistical data could prove either way) does not impinge upon their legal and moral right to "clean drinking water, electricity, environmental reparations, employment and scholarships for young people."81  Collier's opposition to democracy and social activism is indicative of his rejection of a wider principle -- that the legitimacy of government is based upon its acceptance of a social contract to serve its citizens and respect human rights.  This social contract, Collier argues, should be replaced with the objective iron laws of statistical analysis.  Collier's subordination of ethics to statistics extends from the local to the global.  This is Collier's rendering of the arguments for and against the Iraq war:

The US led military intervention in Iraq . . . as the costs escalate, looks increasingly like a mistake.  If you support the Iraq war, you have to agree that the benefits of turning around a failing state are enormous.  But the converse does not follow.  If you are opposed to the Iraq war, it probably does not mean that you do not value turnarounds in failing states.  It is more likely to mean that you are concerned about the actual costs of what you regard as a doubtful military intervention.  (74-75)

This extract is breathtaking.  Not only does Collier himself evaluate just war on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, he assumes that everyone else does as well.  Collier's preoccupation with statistics providing him with a unique insight into truth is reminiscent of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.  Raskolnikov believed he was justified in killing a rich pawnbroker, if he was sure that more good would come from the act than bad.  This wisdom, Raskolnikov explained, is exclusive to "extraordinary" men:

"extraordinary" man has the right . . . to decide to overstep . . . certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea. . .  I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound . . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity. . .  Then, I remember, I maintain . . . that legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals . . . who did not stop short at bloodshed . . . if that bloodshed -- were of use to their cause.  It's remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage.  In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals.82

Truths that deal in certainties and provide their purveyors with absolute legitimacy to implement their logic are characteristic, in one way or another, to all fundamentalisms.  They become a particularly dangerous instrument in the hands of state bureaucracies and many great crimes of state have been committed in their name, across the political spectrum . The philosopher Michel Foucault argues that the peculiar struggle against the excesses of rationalization has been at play since the Enlightenment:

[S]ince Kant, the role of philosophy has been to prevent reason going beyond the limits of what is given in experience; but from the same moment -- that is, from the development of modern states and political management of society -- the role of philosophy has also been to keep watch over the excessive powers of political rationality.  The relationship between rationalisation and the excesses of political power is evident.  And we should not need to wait for concentration camps to recognize the existence of such relations.83

Foucault draws attention to the limitations of resistance that conform to Collier's framework of rationalization (in this case statistical economic analysis).  It requires that we go further and analyze what power relations produce such a rationalization.  It is beyond the remit of this review to historicize Collier's peculiar brand of statistical fundamentalism.  What I will try and do however is broaden my critique of The Bottom Billion to include the political context in which the book was written and the specific ends it is designed to serve.

The Establishment, the Grand Strategy, Africa, and Oil

The Bottom Billion has been very well received.  Many of the positive reviews have come from like-minded liberal economists and right-wing commentators such as Tim Harford, Martin Wolf, and Niall Ferguson.84  Of greater significance has been the book's reception in political circles.  The Bottom Billion has received glowing praise from US Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, and George Soros.  It won the 2008 Lionel Gelber Prize as well as the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award (the latter prize administered by the Council on Foreign Relations).  Collier himself is firmly embedded in the political establishment.  For a long time he worked inside the World Bank and between 1998 and 2003 he was Director of their Development Research Group.  In 2003 he left this post to become a Professor of Economics and the Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford.85  He maintains close relations with significant political figures.  According to his website he was senior advisor to Tony Blair's Commission on Africa, has given seminars at Downing Street, and met with Condoleezza Rice.86  In 2008 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.87  Is Collier merely a mouthpiece of state propaganda and his awards really rewards for services to power?  This is speculation.  My own view is that Collier believes almost everything he has written in The Bottom Billion.  However there are certain preconditions to membership of the establishment.  As an economist at the World Bank it requires acceptance of their accounting frameworks and neoliberal orthodoxy.  In political circles it requires internalizing imperial exceptionalism and the prioritization of the interests of big business.  Finally it involves the tacit understanding that access to power is reserved for those that reflexively bend to its agenda.  The result is a book on economic development that fits neatly into a blueprint for the next stage in the US's imperial grand strategy.

The term "imperial grand strategy" comes from the respected international affairs commentator, John Ikenberry.  In an article in Foreign Affairs he described Bush's announcement of the new National Security Strategy as a "grand strategy [that] begins with a fundamental commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the United States has no peer [or] competitor."88  Controlling the globe's energy reserves is absolutely critical in this strategy and has been the central concern to US and British planners since the Second World War.  Most of the globe's energy resources are situated in the Persian Gulf, an area State Department officials described as a "stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."89  The British agreed describing it as a "vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination."90  Controlling access to oil is important not merely for securing domestic consumption; it provides the US and its allies with considerable economic and political leverage over its rivals.  What presidential advisor George Kennan described as an effective "veto power" on the "industrial" and "military" decisions of potential competitors.91  Such strategic leverage over China (which has no meaningful energy resources within its territory) and Northeast Asia is particularly critical to the US.  The region is developing rapidly and it could become, if it is not already, a serious competitor to US hegemony.92  These fears have been compounded by the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a strategic alliance based in China that includes Russia and India as members and Pakistan and Iran as observers.  The US has applied for observer status but has so far been refused.  Africa, which comprises "seventy percent" of Collier's "bottom billion" (7), has traditionally been of little interest to US imperial planners.  Kennan advised that it should be handed over to Europeans to exploit.93  This has changed in recent years and the US has sought to secure oil supplies on the continent.  There are two main reasons for this change of tack.  Firstly, as the Middle East becomes more volatile, extraction of its oil becomes more precarious.  Secondly, as global demand for oil increases, so does the rate of depletion of global oil reserves.  Securing oil reserves where they are located has become increasingly important.  This is something Collier himself notes; "it is commonplace that the rich world wants to shift its dependence on oil away from the Middle East" (52).  Indeed Collier argues that Africa could be more lucrative than is currently assumed.  Under the heading of "Create a Transparent and Investor Friendly Environment for Resource Prospecting" (61), Collier writes: "The area of landlocked low-income countries currently classified as resource-scarce is enormous.  It seems likely that there are valuable resources in the ground that have not yet been discovered" (61).

Collier is particularly concerned that the West has exclusive rights to prospecting.  He has already argued that there are economic reasons for limiting China's access to African markets.  To this he adds a moral case as well:

The companies attracted to the risky environments are those that are not concerned about poor governance and so have no interest in helping to avoid the problems of the resource trap.  This adverse selection is now extending to the governments behind many resource extraction companies.  In 2006 the vice president of China toured Africa with the revealing refrain "We won't ask questions."  (62)

Presumably the Chinese were taking inspiration from Collier's friend Condoleezza Rice who, in that same year, described one of Africa's most brutal dictators, Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea (a country that sits on vast oil reserves and has received millions of dollars in investments from US corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron), as a "good friend."94  However in spite of his harsh criticism of China's tolerance for poor governance, Collier believes countries rich in oil and gas are particularly "unsuited to the pressures generated by electoral competition" (43).  What Collier is suggesting is not so much a policy agenda for the future; rather he is providing an economic and political case for ongoing operations.  Economically the IMF and World Bank began the process of liberalizing African markets two decades ago.  Militarization of the continent is also well underway.  In 2007 the US created a new unified military command under the control of the Department of Defense, to govern military relations with the continent.  Under this new regime the US military will coordinate all US involvement with Africa, as Horace Campbell explains:

[U]nder AFRICOM, all agencies of the United States of America would be under the United States Department of Defense, so that whatever work is being done in Africa by the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Treasury, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce, all agencies, Peace Corps, university work, will come under the [control of] the US military.  In other words, this will be the new step for the militarization of the continent of Africa.95

So to cap off my criticisms of The Bottom Billion, the book does not even have the virtue of being original.


In a presentation on Ted Talks, Collier explained the background to The Bottom Billion:

I realised we had to go through the business of building an informed citizenry.  That's why I broke all professional rules of conduct for an economist and I wrote an economics book you can read on a beach.96

The Bottom Billion is not an economics book.  It is a confused and disordered array of conflations, fallacies, and falsehoods.  Collier's one achievement is to have written so many distortions, contradictions, untruths, and fatuous arguments that he still manages to hang himself without even supplementing footnotes.  However I share Collier's conviction that an informed citizenry is important.  I therefore implore you to read The Bottom Billion.  Collier's thesis is such a brazen imperial mandate that he might just have provided "the left," "the politically motivated," and "the headless heart" with the radicalizing tool they have been looking for.


1   The trouble with his reasoning is that people only read footnotes if they want to.  Like this one for instance.

2  On page 35 for instance we find: "We drew upon the data of an American political scientist who has assiduously trawled through thousands of pages of newspaper reports to produce a comprehensive list of all the reported coup plots, failed coup attempts, and successful coups in Africa."  On page 43 he writes: "Political scientists have classified the different gradations of democracy across the globe and over time, and we used this standard classification."  And on page 47: "Political scientists have developed a quantitative measure of political restraints on power."

3  Sometimes his generalized attacks against anonymous foes are curiously specific in their rapprochement.  On page 22 we read: "Surprisingly frequently, a hypothesized root cause turns out to be predictable if you already know the hobbyhorse of the speaker.  If the individual cares about income inequality, he or she imagines that that is what rebels are concerned about; someone strongly engaged with political rights assumes that rebels are campaigners for democracy; if someone's great grandparents emigrated to escape from some oppressive regime, the person imagines that the descendants of those who did not emigrate are still being oppressed in the way that folk memory tells them once happened."

4  Charles Abugre, "Christian Aid Stands by Trade Liberalisation Findings," Financial Times 22 December 2005. 

5   CJ. Bhagwati, P. Collier, D. Greenaway, and A. Venables, "Flaws in Research on Trade Used by Christian Aid," Financial Times, 14 December 2005. 

6  Steven Buckley, "Christian Aid Review of 'The Bottom Billion'," 6 August 2007. 

7  Page 7.

8  "I remember when one of the world's great experts on banking consulted me because he had been asked to advise one of the countries of the bottom billion.  He was struggling to come up with evidence that banking reform would directly help the poorest people in the country, because he sensed that without such evidence his advice would be dismissed.  The much stronger evidence that it would help the growth process would not be valued, he felt" (11); "One of his aides [took] me aside after the meeting and [told] me the truth" (166).

9  Aderoju Oyefusi, "Oil and the Probability of Rebel Participation among Youths in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria," Journal of Peace Research 45.4 (2008): 539.

10  James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, "Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War," American Political Science Review 97 (2003: 75-90.

11  See Diana Barahona, "The Freedom House Files," MRZine 3 January 2007.  The Web site of Freedom House is at <>.   For more information on Freedom House,  see Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  For a particularly stark example of the contentiousness of Freedom House's annual report on press freedom compare its conclusions on freedom of the press in Venezuela with Le Monde Diplomatique's report (Maurice Lemoine, "Venezuela's Press Power," August 2002) and David Adams and Phil Gunson, "Media Accused in Failed Coup," St. Petersburg Times, 18 April 2008.

12  I had difficulty tracking this source down.  I finally came upon a research project headed by the University of Michigan: J. David Singer and Melvin Small, "Correlates of War Project: International and Civil War Data, 1816-1992" (this project was primarily funded by the United States Institute of Peace).

13 "The Board of Directors actively oversees the activities of the United States Institute of Peace -- setting long-term goals and priorities for the Institute as well as monitoring the Institute's financial, administrative, and personnel policies.  The board approves major new program initiatives and makes final decisions in the selection of Institute grantees [and] fellows" ("About USIP: The Board of Directors").

14  "Bush Nominates 'Islamophobe' Daniel Pipes to the United States Institute of Peace," Democracy Now! 21 April 2003.

15  Department for International Development (DFID), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), The MacArthur Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Rockefeller Foundation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida/SAREC), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), US Agency for International Development (USAID), William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The World Bank (IBRD) (according to "About AERC").

16  This statement is particularly alarming given the role of the World Bank (of which Collier was a member) and the IMF's economic shock therapies in the economic breakdowns in Russia and Poland, which by now has been meticulously documented by economists across the political spectrum and is relatively uncontroversial.

17  The quote is from Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans; The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, Bloomsbury Press, 2008, p. 205.  Stiglitz writes "Development is complex . . . one-size-fits-all solutions [proposed by the IMF] -- cannot capture these complexities" (Joseph Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work, Penguin 2006, p. xii).  Both stress the importance of "strategic rather than unconditional, integration with the global economy" (Chang, p.29) and the need for a "pragmatic mixture of market incentives and state direction" (Chang, p.15) for developing countries (on the success of Korea, however, the principle generalizes).

18  The relevant chapters on the democratic deficit of global institutions and the need for relative independence for developing countries are Chapter 10 of Making Globalization Work and Chapter 8 pages 171-184 of Bad Samaritans.

19  Masahisa Fujita, Paul R. Krugman, Anthony Venables, The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade, MIT Press, 1999.

20  "Economies of agglomeration" refer to areas in which firms acquire a competitive advantage due to their proximity to other firms, capital, and skilled labor.  A famous example is Silicon Valley.

21  One of the reasons Collier gives for the elimination of tariffs and taxes is the problem of "Dutch disease."  This term traditionally refers to the apparent correlation between resource wealth and weak manufacturing industries.  Collier uses the term more broadly however to include wealth accumulated from aid (see Collier pages 162-3).  Addressing the specificities of his argument is beyond the remit of this review.  However for more on Dutch disease and its relevance to development economics, see Joseph Stiglitz, "We Can Now Cure Dutch Disease," Guardian, 18 August 2004 and "The End of the Beginning," Guardian, 12 July 2005.

22  The fact that private capital has had a bad name is, according to Collier, once again the fault of the "politically engaged" who have "exaggerated suspicions of globalisation" and "have the hardest time believing in mutual gains" (88).

23  Remittances are transfers of wealth by foreign workers to their home countries.  Collier makes his case for remittances on page 61.

24  Attracting foreign investment is also dependent upon pacifying areas caught in conflict traps.  I will discuss his agenda of pacification in the final section.

25  Chang, op. cit.,  p. 27.

26  Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work, p. 42.

27  Ibid, p.11.

28  For more information, see Prabhat Patnaik in Joseph Stiglitz and Prabhat Patnaik, "An Emergent India: Prospects and Problems," Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, 13 February 2007.

29  Chang, op. cit., p.29.

30  Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work, p.10.

31  Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, Penguin, 2001, pp 125-6.

32  Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work, p.10.

33  Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work, p.34.

34  See Stiglitz and Patnaik, "An Emergent India: Prospects and Problems."

35  Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, p.66-7.

36  See Stiglitz and Patnaik, "An Emergent India: Prospects and Problems."

37  Ibid.

38  Brendan Smith, Jeremy Brecher, and Tim Costello, "China's Emerging Labor Movement,", 5 October 2006. cited in Klein, The Shock Doctrine, p. 458.

39  Klein, ibid., p. 458

40  Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, p.66

41  See Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, p.64

42  Some commentators have conflated India and China's export oriented economy with an embrace of the free market.

43  Chang, op. cit., p.27      

44  David Cay Johnson, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill), Portfolio, 2007.

45  Patnaik, "The Economics of the New Phase of Imperialism," Macroscan, 2005.

46  P Sainath, "Indexing Inhumanity, Indian Style," India Together, 2 November 2007. 

47  Stiglitz, J. Making Globalization Work, p.11.

48  It is significant that Collier does not concede that liberalization makes the poor more vulnerable to global fluctuations.

49  Raj Patel interviewed on Democracy Now! (8 April 2008): "Stuffed and Starved: As Food Riots Break Out Across the Globe, Raj Patel Details 'The Hidden Battle for the World Food System'."

50  Frances Moore Lappe, "Just Who's Doing the Hoarding?  Food Independence and Real Democracy,", 2 July 2008.

51  Joseph Stiglitz, "The Economics of Information," Asia Society, 5 February 2008. 

52  See George Monbiot, "What Is Progress?" 4 December 2007.

53  Collier includes Venezuela in his list of oil rich countries that are "off the path" towards a "balanced democracy."  This is one of the more severe examples where Collier's subservience to US power takes priority over the truth.  For more information on Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution, see <>.  For more information on the US attempted coup in 2002, see Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, 2004.

54  The G8 is a self-appointed group of nations made up of some of the world's leading industrialised countries (the USA, Canada, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and the UK).  For a good introduction, listen to this 17 May 2005 interview with Mark Curtis.

55  It is sentences like these that genuinely make me doubt whether Collier believes what he is writing.

56  British complicity with Suharto's invasion is confirmed in a Parliamentary inquiry with Peter Hain.

57  Amnesty International, "'Power and Impunity': Human Rights under the New Order," September 1994.

58  Testimony cited in Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World, Vintage Press, 2003, p.403.

59  G Munster & J Walsh, Documents on Australian Defence and Foreign Policy, 1968-75, Hong Kong 1980, pp.192-3, cited in Curtis, Web of Deceit, p.404.

60  John Pilger, "Our Model Dictator," Guardian, 28 January 2008. 

61  Testimony of Allan Nairn, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 17 February 1992.

62  Ibid.

63  Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Penguin, 2003, pp. 29-30.

64  Chomsky, ibid., pp. 29-31.

65  UN Charter: <>.

66  One of the more positive reviews of Collier's book came from Niall Ferguson: "[The Bottom Billion] stands on a foundation of painstaking quantitative research" and "is an elegant edifice: admirably succinct and pithily written" ("The Least among US," New York Times, 1 July 2007).  Ferguson is under no illusions that the US doesn't constitute an empire and that the neoliberal policies they export to the rest of the world are not a part of the US's imperial campaign.  In one interview he states, "[The US] is an empire with almost unrivalled military and cultural power. [Like Britain in the 19th century the US] Empire is a means to spread liberal values in terms of free markets" (Frank Bures, "Our Imperial Imperative," The Atlantic, 25 May 2004).

67  Noam Chomsky, Failed States, Penguin, 2006, p.104.

68  Robert Cooper, The Post-Modern State, 7 April 2002. 

69  Cooper, ibid.

70  Alan Greenspan on Democracy Now! (24 September 2007): "Alan Greenspan vs. Naomi Klein on the Iraq War, Bush’s Tax Cuts, Economic Populism, Crony Capitalism and More." 

71  Graham Paterson, "Alan Greenspan Claim the Iraq War Was Really about Oil," Times, 16 September 2007.  

72  Chomsky, Failed States, p. 107.

73  Patrick Cockburn, "US Issues Threat to Iraq's $50bn Foreign Reserves in Military Deal," Independent, 6 June 2008. 

74  "Dr. Condoleezza Rice discusses Presidents National Security Strategy," New York, 1 October 2002. 

75  Condoleezza Rice, "A Balance of Power That Favors Freedom," December 2002. 

76  Secretary of State William Cohen Annual Report 1999.  Cited in Noam Chomsky, "Dominance and Its Dilemmas," Boston Review, October/November 2003. 

77  Excerpt of book cited in "Author Kinzer Charts 'Century of Regime Change'," NPR, 5 April 2006.

78  Klein, The Shock Doctrine, p.77.

79  Naomi Klein speaking on Democracy Now (17 September 2007): "The Shock Doctrine: Naomi Klein on the Rise of Disaster Capitalism." 

80  Indeed Collier's use of the "Michigan definition" of civil war ("an internal conflict that involves at least 1000 combat related deaths, with each side incurring at least 5 per cent of deaths")makes his argument "civil wars are caused by objective measures determining the capacity for rebel groups to wage violence" a tautology.

81  Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill, "Drilling and Killing," The Nation, 16 November  1998.

82  Fyodor Dostoevski, Crime and Punishment, p.75.

83  Michel Foucault, "Omnes et Singulatim: Towards a Criticism of Political Reason," The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Stanford University, 10 and 16 October 1979.

84  Martin Wolf, "How the Bottom Billion Are Trapped," Financial Times, 13 May 2007. 

85  Paul Collier's CV on the Web: <>

86  Paul Collier: <>

87  London Gazettes 58729,14 June 2008, p. 7.

88  G. John Ikenberry, "America's Imperial Ambition," Foreign Affairs, September/October 2002, cited in Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Penguin 2003.  Ikenberry goes on to write that "America's neoimperial grand strategy threatens to rend the fabric of the international community and political partnerships precisely at a time when that community and those partnerships are urgently needed.  It is an approach fraught with peril and likely to fail.  It is not only politically unsustainable but diplomatically harmful.  And if history is a guide, it will trigger antagonism and resistance that will leave America in a more hostile and divided world."

89  Irvine H. Anderson, Aramco, the United States and Saudi Arabia: A Study of the Dynamics of Foreign Oil Policy, 1933-1950, Princeton University Press, 1981, cited in Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, p. 150.

90  Introductory paper on the Middle East by the UK, 1947, Foreign Relations of the United States, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1947, Volume V, p. 569 cited in Curtis, Web of Deceit, p.16.

91  Kennan was speaking specifically of Japan, but the principle generalizes.   Bruce Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, Vol 2, p. 57, cited in Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues, 1992 p. 274.

92  The threat China poses is almost entirely economic.  China has no military bases outside its territory.

93  See Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, p. 150.

94  Condoleezza Rice, "Remarks with Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo before Their Meeting," Washington, D.C., 12 April 2006.

95  Horace Campbell interviewed on Democracy Now! (18 February 2008): "Analyst: On Africa Visit, Bush Pushes Agenda of Continent-Wide U.S. Military Expansion." 

96  Paul Collier on Ted Talks, March 2008: "Paul Collier: 4 Ways to Improve the Lives of the 'Bottom Billion'." 

Sam Grove works at a research and policy unit for mental health in London in London.
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