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Sizing up the African state

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2000

Arthur A. Goldsmith
Affiliation:
University of Massachusetts, Boston and Harvard Institute for International Development

Abstract

This paper reviews empirical evidence concerning government errors of commission and omission in Africa. Seen in the context of international comparisons, how do African states measure up in the defensive functions of avoiding government excess? And how do they rate in the constructive functions of supplying public goods in response to demands from society? Regarding errors of commission, African states do not stand out as singularly prone to spend large shares of GNP, to employ high ratios of the population in bureaucratic jobs, or to own extensive state-owned enterprises. The data on errors of omission are more equivocal. African states do too little to prevent corruption, to protect civil and political rights, and to secure the legal environment for business. Yet, other developing regions display many of the same deficiencies. Overall, there is little empirical evidence of a sui generis African state.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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