University of Bergen
Is economic growth enhanced in countries where state-building has preceded democratization, with enhanced state capacity in policy implementation generated by a Weberian bureaucratic apparatus as a key mechanism? If observed, is it found across selective country cases or is it a more general pattern? The authors utilize a broad variety of techniques and an encompassing data set (180 countries; 1789–2019) to generate a consistent negative response to these questions. Along the way, the narrative is marked by rigorously precise yet crystal-clear argumentation and a meticulous design, bolstered by V-Dem data analyzed via an array of complementary methods. The results consistently show that although a variety of individual country histories do indeed illustrate processes and outcomes consistent with the 'state-building first, democracy later' theory, there are no such clear general patterns. These findings are multifaceted and consistent, based upon in-depth case narratives as well as a battery of cutting-edge statistical methods (synthetic control methods to simulate counterfactuals; panel regression that tests how state capacity interacted with democracy affects growth; models that match only similar cases which differ on the treatment variable; regression that tests explicitly the relative impact of 'stateness-first' and 'democracy-first' historical sequences). The quality and breadth of data, sophistication of the methods, and persuasiveness of the findings constitute an indispensable contribution to existing knowledge. However, what is perhaps most strikingly impressive are the design and argumentation that encompass considerations of underlying theoretical assumptions, confounding variables, counterfactuals, case selection, conceptualization, measurement (how to measure 'sequence' or 'state capacity'?), causality, validity and reliability. One Road to Riches constitutes top-notch comparative research at its finest.