Friday, September 01, 2006

Alesina et al. on Iraq

Bloomsberg columnist Amity Shlaes reads an NBER working paper by economists Alberto Alesina, William Easterly, and Janina Matuszeski and concludes that "Iraq will never make it." Why? Here is the paper's abstract:

Artificial States

Artificial states are those in which political borders do not coincide with a division of nationalities desired by the people on the ground. We propose and compute for all countries in the world two new measures how artificial states are. One is based on measuring how borders split ethnic groups into two separate adjacent countries. The other one measures how straight land borders are, under the assumption the straight land borders are more likely to be artificial. We then show that these two measures seem to be highly correlated with several measures of political and economic success.

FYI, Alesina is my Harvard colleague, and Janina is a Harvard grad student (and former Ec 10 section leader).

Thanks to Truck and Barter for the pointer to the Shlaes article.