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Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  525 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews

Wars, Guns, and Votes, Paul Collier investigates the violence and poverty in the small, remote countries at the lowest level of the world economy. An esteemed economist and a foremost authority on developing countries, Collier argues that the spread of elections and peace settlements in the world's most dangerous countries may lead to a brave new democratic world. In the

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Harper (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jan 12, 2011 Praj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: px
Paul Collier asserts the 21st century being the era of civil wars. If the claim is practically solidified, the peaceful restoration of a world community will be a far-fetched dream. Civil wars are detrimental to political and state progression, let alone humanity. A volatile umbrella sheltering ethnic discrepancies, power-related violence, abusive exploitation of developmental funds, brutality, genocide and the biggest scare of all thriving of terrorists pockets. Collier, an expert in developmen ...more
Jun 30, 2014 Geourska rated it really liked it
A really interesting and surprisingly readable book. Paul Collier has a delightful way of expressing ideas so that they are witty and comprehensible at the same time. He makes reference to a lot of the research that he has done, without overloading us with unreadable academic jargon. I suppose this might frustrate a more serious reader, but it made the book accessible for me. I do not know about economics or politics to be able to judge whether his ideas are reasonable or not, but in any case, t ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Doron rated it liked it
Response to both Amy Chua in ‘World On Fire’ and Paul Collier in ‘War, Guns and Votes’ - my views on their criticism of how the developed world has tried to build democracies in failed and fragile states, how their opinions agree, how they differ.

Amy Chua and Paul Collier share some penetrating insights into the problems associated with the spread of democracy since the early 1990s in their respective works, ‘World on Fire’ and ‘War, Guns and Votes’. At the forefront of their analyses is the con
Nicholas Whyte
Dec 23, 2009 Nicholas Whyte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Wars, Guns and Votes is a lucidly written analysis of the effects and causes of democracy and good governance in the poorest countries of the world, whose inhabitants Collier describes in a previous book as "the bottom billion". Collier's findings are disturbing and provocative, but based on good hard research. He states that:
1. democratic poor countries are more at risk of violence than non-democratic poor countries (for rich countries, the opposite is
Vikas Datta
Dec 31, 2016 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very incisive..
I've owned this book almost since it came out in 2009 but only got around reading it now. Although the world has in many respects moved on in the intervening six years, Collier's arguments regarding 'democracy in dangerous places' are still valid. Unfortunately. Collier relies mostly on quantitative studies conducted by himself and his graduate students to provide evidence on topics related to democratic challenges and conflict in the 'bottom billion' (a term he coined in his earlier book about ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Ed rated it it was ok
Shelves: africa
I come not to praise Paul Collier and not really to bury him but to point out what I feel are some flaws in this very highly praised book. First of all it is too "popular" by half. He leaves out all of the research that went into his book; he describes some of the difficulties he and his indefatigable band of international Ph.D. candidates had in finding data and in constructing experiments that worked and then has a list of the original research he used. More method and less description of outc ...more
Wim Schalenbourg
Dec 26, 2016 Wim Schalenbourg rated it really liked it
Shelves: development
Interesting book asking very relevant questions on democracy and development of least developed countries. I learned a lot.
Some of it is outdated though, due to the current terrorist threat, different from civil wars, coups, etc. due to which LDC governments are increasing their security and army expenditures, often supported by donors.
Apr 04, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: development, military
If I could give the book 3.5 stars I would. If you've read "Bottom Billion" (highly recommended), then I don't think you'll necessarily get much out of War, Guns, Votes. This time around Collier is more focused on the political economy of the bottom billion, but his analysis and recommendations echo Bottom Billion to a large degree.

The book has been successful in stirring up interesting blog post reviews, which I think do a good job explaining the good and the bad about the book:

1) Bill Easterly
May 16, 2015 Femmy rated it it was ok
Thoroughly and rigorously researched without doubt and heavily loaded with christian and capitalist sentiments as well. The writer seems to have forgotten completely or feign ignorance that there's no altruism in politics.

In order to justify his case of ethnic political crisis using Nigeria as case study, the writer made mistake or twisted deliberately the Patricia Etteh money laundering scandal. Here is the anecdote: Patricia Etteh the house speaker was reported to have spent over 600 million
Jul 08, 2011 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. The book starts by giving a description of daily life politics at the bottom billion. He subsequently analyses the threats (guns, wars and coups). The insights gains in the analyses then provide a framework to assess how the international community could intervene to provide the essentials necessary o get on the tracks for peace (i.e., to introduce accountability and security as public) goods. The final chapter consists of 3 proposals of potential intervention that could help t ...more
Al Khatib
May 25, 2013 Al Khatib rated it liked it
While the book addresses many interesting themes based on extensive research, the books fails to address how these economies were divided and concurred for many years. The British regime was one that controlled a country for many years sucked its resources, left its people uneducated, handed the throne to a dictator and left a mess behind. The acts of colonization have caused a chaos in Africa.

Africa is made up of many tribes and to instill ethnicity and bais in the hearts of those people create
Apr 30, 2013 Casey rated it it was ok
I had relatively high hopes for this book (1.5). Needless to say, my expectations were not met. Collier's main argument in this book is that elections by themselves where not the solution to violence and civil war. Most of the book is spent discussing reasons for violence and some case examples.

Lastly, he presents his own solution that seems highly immature and impractical with the underlying assumption that everything will work out in the end if institutions can work. His "easy" solution could
Sandy J
Aug 10, 2013 Sandy J rated it liked it
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who gives a damn about poverty in Africa. Collier offers fascinating data that is used to tell an interesting story of the poverty traps described in his previous book 'The Bottom Billion'. Much of his thesis resonates with current events, the 2013 Zimbabwe election called for Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF is a case in point.

There are some irritations. Collier occasionally leaps to positions based on his belief in growth and not entirely substantiated b
Jan 02, 2010 Cory rated it liked it
Encompasses interesting research about the relationships between democracy, demographics, economics, and war in the 3rd world. Collier seems to really know his stuff in this space and does a good job at pointing out research done by others, and the flaws in his own work. I thought the most interesting conclusion from the book was that the likelihood of an outbreak in war can be accurately modeled based solely on the feasibility of war (availability of guns, mountainous regions to hide in, etc.). ...more
Kaitlin Oujo
Jan 17, 2015 Kaitlin Oujo rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
It took me reading the entire book to understand what the argument was getting at- until the last 30 pages or so, I couldn't really understand how it all tied together. There are a lot of brilliant concepts in this book, but the author's descriptions of the various methodologies are kind of awkward, and the examples are a little unfocused and all over the place. Also, a lot of the book is already out of date- I hope there is an update reflecting recent trends in UN peacekeeping. If you're really ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Jonathan rated it really liked it
I highly enjoy Collier's style of writing and the research he presents in his writing. I've never read one of the primary papers he references in this work or the Bottom Billion, but he referes to many studies he and colleagues have completed and published in the book.

This focuses on how policies could be enacted to improve stability and accountability in the poorest countries. There are many interesting findings that make this work worth reading, including that democracy is actually negatively
Dec 14, 2010 Phil rated it it was amazing
The Bottom Billion was great in bringing actual data into the study of the poor instead of hope or cynicism. Now, Collier goes into my primary interest, the juxtaposition of development, violence, and democracy. The truth is uglier than those who advocate military intervention to save the world want and also clearer than what isolationists hope for. Great book by a rare academic who jumps from hard statistical analysis and game theory to a running narrative of what the self-interested dictator o ...more
Oct 12, 2010 Sam rated it really liked it
Unless you are really interested in Post conflict/conflict countries and international development in them, this book can seem more than just a bit academic. The amount of proving and reproving could get boring for anyone who isnt really interested.
But if you are interested even remotely in this then pick it up. And pick it up yesterday. This book is a must have for those who wish to go into the field, and I feel that it may already be a text book for some classes.
Even though he sticks mainly wi
To be honest, this is more of a literature review on peacebuilding and the relationship between democracy and conflict, and is more for the sake of non-academics who are less experienced in the subject matter. This doesn't render the whole thing pointless, however. Collier's points about the manner in which elections are treated as a panacea to conflict are not new, though his suggestions of an international system of checks and balances to encourage elections by providing a credible security gu ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Elliot rated it it was ok
Much like "The Bottom Billion" I found this book rather frustrating. While I agree that changes need to be made in the provision of foreign aid, and I don't agree with Sachs that it's simply that we need to throw a ton of money at the problem, I think Collier's proposed solutions are incredibly unrealistic. He's an economist, which I love, but his solutions are things that are completely unfeasible politically. Without taking into account what is actually possible politically suggestions like th ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa-dev
Are the world's poorest countries too big to be nations but too small to be states?

The explanation and analysis Mr Collier provides of the problems with democracy and accountability in the poorest countries is interesting and depressing albeit not terribly surprising. He dispassionately uses statistics to try to establish the common factors around civil wars and coups, with mildly depressing results.

His conclusions are interesting, but I'm not convinced by how practical his suggested solutions a
May 27, 2012 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-for-mpaff
I think I'm just not as big of fan of Collier's writing style. His arguments are based on a large amount of statistical research carried out in partnership with PhD candidates - definitely well entrenched academia. It may have helped to have first read his first book, The Bottom Billion. If you are interested in post conflict reconstruction or conflict prevention, this would be a great resource.
Oct 25, 2012 Aliza rated it liked it
Lots of interesting ideas as Collier builds up his ideas from "Bottom Billion." He is not afraid to take an unpopular opinion (such as that European colonialism in Africa was not all bad news), but many of his proposed solutions include international interventionism on some scale. I would have been more interested in seeing solutions for Africa and the rest of the fragile states described that would promote change from within on a more sustainable level.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
The author of the Bottom Billion continues to analyze the hot spots of the world using economics and statistics to investigate such questions as why AK-47s are so cheap in Africa, how dictators use elections to perpetuate themselves AND aid donations, military spending unconsciously matches perceptions of dangerous neighbors, judging the efficacy of arms embargoes by studying the stock values of arms companies (hint: if they're making money, the embargo isn't working).
Feb 26, 2011 Paulo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Collier shows us why the promises of elections by themselves where not the secret elixir to save the poor countries from constant violence and civil war. He goes on to identify what are the causes behind violence in the "bottom billion" and why easy solutions have failed in the past. In the end, though, he presents his own easy solution that seems as likely to work as all the ones that he analyzes in the book.
Jan 11, 2013 Jodi rated it really liked it
2013-01-04 -- I appreciated the lack of economic jargon in this book and found the explanation regarding how the research was conducted to be very interesting. It is easy to read for the lay person and a good introduction to recent events in various African countries. I will definitely look for more of his books in the future.
Christopher Gray
Aug 25, 2013 Christopher Gray rated it really liked it
This was a great read after reading about the American revolution and superfreakonics. A lot of the dynamics that exist today mirror what was in place in early America, but the ability to make it work in today's developing world is drastically different. Collier's analysis and ideas are groundbreaking... They're just crazy enough to actually work.
Feb 21, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Very interesting to read while working on all-things-Cote d'Ivoire. I found Collier's methodology to be the most interesting though. Everything was quantified, which makes sense for an economist. Can't wait for elections in Congo!
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Paul Collier, CBE is a Professor of Economics, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Antony's College. He is the author of The Plundered Planet; Wars, Guns, and Votes; and The Bottom Billion, winner of Estoril Distinguished Book Prize, the Arthur Ross Book Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize.

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