Fisman and Miguel’s Economic Gangsters starts out with the story of Kenyan novelist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s return to Kenya in 2004 with optimism in the face of a newly elected democratic government.* He was subsequently victimized horrifically at the hands of thugs, which victimization many imagined was politically motivated. “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.” I’m only in chapter two, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the book. I always worry that these popular economics books will just be Freakonomics 7.0 (like Ian Ayres’s Super Crunchers, which is basically that albeit enjoyable nonetheless).
Thus far, Fisman and Miguel distinguish themselves in two ways: (1) the theme is clearly defined. Corruption and violence are massive elements of development, and this book tries to look inside those phenomena. (2) The writing is really good. It’s nice to read.
As always, I’ll let you know when I get through it; but thus far, it’s a recommended read.
Here is an interview with the authors.
[Caveat: Miguel is a good friend of mine, which affected my getting to the book a little faster than I would have otherwise, but not – at least consciously – my evaluation of it.]
*I’m a fan of Ngugi and reviewed his latest book here.