Open Journal of Political Science
2012. Vol.2, No.2, 17-25
Published Online July 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 17
Doing for Political Science What Darwin Did for Biology
Herbert H. Werlin
University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
Received April 25th, 2012; revised May 28 th, 2012; accepted June 10th, 2012
This essay begins with a comparison of Mumbai and Shanghai, using the recent 2012 book on slum con-
ditions in Mumbai by Katherine Boo, but suggesting that an analysis of public administration (PA) in es-
sential in this regard. Unfortunately, PA is a neglected field in the social sciences. Partly this may be due
to doubts about the usefulness of PA, along the lines suggested by a 2004 book by Francis Fukuyama:
why, for example, what works in one place and time does not work in another. Political Elasticity (PE)
theory is put forward as a way of overcoming these doubts. In so doing, the author attempts to do for the
political science what Darwin did for the biology. Case studies (e.g., solid waste management failure in
Lagos, as against achievement in Tokyo; the inability of Ghana to improve agricultural outputs, despite its
progressive and democratic government) are used to illustrate PE theory. At the conclusion, the impor-
tance of motivation is emphasized, using Vietnam (in comparison to Bangladesh) as an example of a
country that has been able to link PA to economic development.
Keywords: Darwin; Nairobi; Mumbai; Political Elasticity Theory; Public Administration; Shanghai
We owe a debt of gratitude to Katherine Boo (a staff writer at
the New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize) for her beau-
tifully written and well-researched Random House (2012) book,
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a
Mumbai Undercity (now a New York Times “Best Seller”). In
the process of following a family in the small slum of An-
nawadi near the international airport, she makes clear the fol-
lowing points about Mumbai: 1) that you cannot distinguish
police from criminals; 2) that torture is “standard operating
procedure” in the legal system; and 3) that official corruption is
a “fact of life.” What she doesn’t do (and cannot be blamed for)
is to go deeply into the underlying problems of public admini-
stration here. This is where the following comparison of Mum-
bai and Shanghai might be useful.
Mumbai and Shanghai
The 2008 Academy Award for best film, Slumdog Million-
aire, suggests an interesting comparison of Mumbai (the focus
of the film) and Shanghai, each with more than 20 million,
depending upon where one draws the boundaries. Using this
comparison, it may be possible to better understand why India’s
economic success has not led to the higher standard of living
achieved by China.
Despite environmental problems in both cities, it is clear that
living conditions are far worse in Mumbai than in Shanghai. A
2005 World Bank report indicates that most of Mumbai’s
population live in slums characterized by illegal occupation and
the absence of water, sanitation, electricity and other basic civic
amenities. The several million “street people” are without any
access to latrines. Suketu Mehta, in his vivid 2004 study of
Mumbai (Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found), notes that,
even in areas not considered slums, it is rare to find well-func-
tioning infrastructure. Each year, he points out (p. 117), the deficit
of houses grows by more than 40,000, with officials barely able
to rehabilitate 1000 of the 20,000 buildings officially classified
as “dilapidated”. In Shanghai, in contrast, more than 50,000
households have been annually housed since the beginning of
the 1990s so that, as of 2000, over half the dwelling units were
owner-occupied and had private kitchens and toilets. While
illegal residents (mostly, unauthorized rural migrants) live un-
der miserable conditions, most have access to tap water and
communal latrines. The capacity of the Shanghai government to
improve infrastructure was commented upon in 2003 by a
member of a visiting Seattle delegation, noting that, while Seat-
tle had been struggling to expand its airport since the early
1990s, Shanghai had built a new airport, miles of elevated ex-
pressways, three subway lines, and 1500 high rise buildings,
among other developments.
In Bombay, Mehta points out, local politics is not about is-
sues but about loyalty to community bosses. It is also about the
struggle for protection: “Since the police have failed so misera-
bly at curbing extortion, the public might as well elect the ex-
tortionist himself to guarantee protection.” Mehta goes on to
note that, while forty thousand new cases are filed annually in
Bombay, the conviction rate for criminal offenses is less than
five percent and the handling of evidence in a civil case aver-
ages five years: “This means that every year the Bombay High
Court adds as many new cases to the backlog as it resolves.”
This may explain why no one has yet been brought to justice
for a 2002 pogrom here (apparently depicted in Slumdog Mil-
lionaire) in which perhaps 2000 Muslims perished.
A 2005 Carnegie Endowment report on governance in
Shanghai suggests that, while the judicial system is quite im-
perfect, there is greater respect for law here than elsewhere
because of “the city’s success in recruiting better-qualified
officials as well as improving them with training and law en-
forcement advice” (Hung, 2005: p. 7). This report also points
out (p. 19) that judges, officials, and police are reasonably well
paid and supervised, including “participation from experts and
H. H. Werlin
the general public.” Shanghai has a low crime rate, particularly
for a mega-metropolis, with a police station or post in every
neighborhood. While mayors are chosen by the Central Gov-
ernment, several of them (President Jiang Zemin and Premier
Zhu Rongji) who eventually became national leaders, empha-
sized the need to develop Shanghai into a world-class city, able
to attract half of the world’s top multinational corporations as
well as 50 universities and colleges and at least 260 independ-
ent research institutes. Its highly educated and resourceful
workforce has meant that unemployment continues to be low
despite the economic difficulties of the last few years (see
Gechlik, 2005).
The dismal situation in Mumbai is typical of urban India,
according to a 2006 study partly sponsored by the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and other
international organizations, for various reasons including: weak
municipal governments, inadequate local government resources,
uncertain financial transfers from state and national sources,
poor intergovernmental relations, a fragmentation of service
delivery institutions, improper handling of funds, very little
accountability, and a culture of patronage. Summing up the
situation, one of the writers of this report points out that mu-
nicipalities “are unable to deliver services for reasons that are
traceable to their narrow revenue base, institutional and proce-
dural deficiencies, and limited staff capabilities” (Mathur 2006,
95). Consequently, for example, cities in India can treat only
about 15% of sewage because of shortages of power, water, and
expertise in their sewage plants, causing more than 1,000 chil-
dren to die each day of diarrhoeral sickness (The Economist,
July 10, 2008, 45 - 46).
A Theory of Public Administration
Francis Fukuyama, in his 2004 book, State Building: Gov-
ernance and World Order in the 21st Century, recognizes the
impact of inadequate public administration in weak or failed
states. For example, in regard to helping HIV/AIDS victims,
the “public health infrastructure may be nonexistent, incompe-
tent, or highly corrupt; medicines will be stolen, records will
not be kept, and donor funds will end up in the hands of bu-
reaucrats rather than going to the patients that they are meant to
serve (pp. 40-41).” The weaker the state, the less likely it is to
be able to “monitor tax compliance and enforce tax laws (p.
Yet, Fukuyama insists “that the field of public administration
is necessarily more of an art than a science” because “there are
no globally valid rules for organizational design (p. 43).” Part
of the problem has to do with the difficulty of measuring public
sector outputs, particularly public services. “If the latter cannot
be measured accurately, there can ultimately be no formal
mechanism for delivering transparency and accountability (p.
55).” A second problem has to do with the fact that “best prac-
tices” in one country or situation may not be so in another
country or situation. “Good solutions to public administration
problems have to be, in some sense, local, which requires a
very different relationship between government in developing
countries their outside donors and advisors (p. 55).” These
problems are connected to a final problem, having to do with
appropriate forms and levels of decentralization. In this regard,
“there is simply no theory that can provide generalized guide-
lines for an appropriate level of discretion in public administra-
tion (p. 74).”
I have struggled over many years to link public administra-
tion to political science, economic development, and compara-
tive politics. My development of Political Elasticity (PE) theory,
which won the 2010 Fred Riggs Award given by the American
Society of Public Administration’s Section on International and
Comparative Administration, emerged from my work with
Dwight Waldo and Sheldon Wolin (the great political philoso-
phy professor) during my Berkeley graduate school days in the
early 1960s. As explained in my 2001 Public Administration
Quarterly “Essay in Memory of Dwight Waldo,” I wandered
into Waldo’s administrative theory seminar, having taught pub-
lic administration at Texas Tech, using Leonard White’s 1955
textbook (Werlin, 2001). While I found the seminar interesting,
I did not know how to use what I was learning for African
studies, which was my reason for being at Berkeley. Moreover,
questions raised by Waldo and Sheldon Wolin having to do
with the need to reconcile politics and administration, bureauc-
racy and democracy, scientific management and humanistic
management, among others, intensified my confusion. As I
explain in my 2001 essay, various experiences facilitated my
efforts to deal with these questions:
My Study of the Nairobi City Council.
For my Ph.D. dissertation under Carl Rosberg (completed in
l966 and published in l974), I did a study of the Nairobi City
Council as it shifted from British colonial rule to African con-
trol. What I found was that organizational relationships were
breaking down because of the growing practice of giving jobs,
contracts, and favors on the basis of tribe, friendship, and link-
ages to powerful families. Officials no longer trusted one-an-
other, with the result that they were uncertain what they were
supposed to be doing. Authority within the bureaucracy and
between the Central Government and the City Council could no
longer be delegated with any expectation of implementation. I
described this situation as “inelasticity of control.” In other
words, the “rubber band” characteristics of political power,
which we take for granted in an ordinary bureaucracy, were no
longer functioning in any effective way. Political power could
be exercised for purposes of repression or corruption but not for
providing public services or carrying o u t devel o pment.
About sixty percent of Nairobi’s three million population
live in slum conditions without basic services. To help these
people, international organizations have sponsored “site and
service” projects, under which plots of land are distributed to
residents and infrastructure is provided, allowing residents to
build their own houses, with extra rooms to be rented for in-
come-earning. However, when it was reported during the l980s
that rich people (the so-called “bwana kubwa”) were avoiding
paying property taxes and service charges because of corruption
and mismanagement, the residents of the projects (the “bwana
kidogolittle people) rioted in protest against these taxes and
charges, thereby undermining future projects.
My Years (1977-84) as Editor of the Urban Edge
(A World Bank Newsletter).
From 1977 to almost 1984, I edited a newsletter for the
World Bank. When this job ended, I went back to the academic
world and to my work on administrative theory. Perhaps recog-
nizing the defects of my “elasticity of control” theory, Waldo
(with whom I corresponded until a month before his death in
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
H. H. Werlin
2000) suggested during the mid-l980s that I take a look at “con-
tingency theory”—the theory that there is “no best way” and
that “what works, works.” This seemed to be a common view-
point among World Bank staff but was also a source of confu-
sion because they were expected to find and promote “best
I eventually decided that we needed a theory of leadership
that could account for the fact that, for every success story in
public administration, there seems to be an equal and opposite
failure story, and that different evaluations of the same ap-
proach (be it public housing or school vouchers or whatever)
are irreconcilable. I therefore came to the conclusion that gov-
ernance (the capacity “to guide or steer” in its original Latin
meaning) should be analyzed on the basis of two dimensions:
“political hardware” (referring to rules, procedures, technology,
organizational arrangements, methods, etc.) and “political
software” (referring to the quality of relationships between
leaders and followers essential for the effectiveness of political
Whereas political hardware can be written down or promul-
gated (takes an objective form, in other words), political soft-
ware is subjective, (within the minds or spirit of participants),
manifesting itself in productive or counterproductive attitudes,
prejudices, emotions, teamwork, and morale. I concluded that
there are “iron laws of bureaucracy:” but these depend, not on
particular Weberian requirements (hierarchy, rules, procedures,
rights, contractual duties, specialized positions or roles, etc.),
but on the commonsensical steps required for political software
development: establishing acceptable goals, hiring qualified
personnel, encouraging training, delegating responsibility,
stimulating motivation and competition, paying attention to
morale, expanding two-way flows of communication, promot-
ing legitimacy, maintaining supervision, cultivating contractors,
protecting independent spheres of authority, and developing
conflict-resolution procedures. Inasmuch as any of these steps
are neglected or mismanaged, all reform efforts in both micro-
and macro-administration are going to be difficult, if not im-
My Use of the Ordinary Language Approach.
I have also used “the ordinary language” approach taught at
Oxford during my years there (the mid-l950s) to clarify such
words as politics, political power, corruption, and democracy -
all of which are sources of confusion in public administration,
as here indicated:
Politics. If administrators see politics only as “partisanship”
(the struggle for competitive advantage), they obviously want
to avoid it. However, if they view it as “statesmanship” (the
struggle for consensus), they may recognize it as essential for
effective administration and the transformation of political
power into “social energy.”
Democracy. Whereas liberal democracy has to do with par-
tisanship (elections, multi-party systems, and majority rule),
classical democracy refers to the Athenian conception of com-
munity or polis: consensus-building. Without statesmanship
(including a legitimate legal system), elections can be mean-
ingless or counterproductive.
Corruption. Primary corruption is my term for excessive
partisanship or greed; secondary corruption indicates a gov-
ernmental inability to control or mitigate this situation. As an
analogy, we might think of basketball fouling under two situa-
tions: one in which there is normal refereeing, so that fouling is
meaningful, punishable, and tolerable; the other in which refe-
reeing is corrupt, causing fouling to be pervasive, essential, and
destigmatized. While primary corruption does not necessarily
prevent development, secondary corruption has a corrosive
effect on the requirements for development. This is because
secondary corruption stems from as well as contributes to weak
political software. In so doing, it causes and intensifies political
Decentralization. I argue that in most wealthy countries,
centralization and decentralization tend to merge. This is so
because of the high quality of political software that exists in
these countries. In poor countries, on the other hand, local gov-
ernments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations are
denied much authority or assistance. They are also inadequately
controlled, so that forms of both centralization and decentrali-
zation appear to be ineffective.
Political power. Instead of the coercive view of political
power prevalent in political science literature (“A has power
over B to the extent that he can get B to do something B would
not otherwise do,” to quote Robert Dahl’s 1964 book, Modern
Political Analysis, p. 50.), it has to become more persuasive for
political development to take place, recognizing that, while A
can force B to surrender resources, he/she cannot force B to
productively invest them. This requires an “enabling environ-
ment,” which must be fostered, rather than overtly imposed.
Because PE theory is essential to our effort to better under-
stand public administration, its five propositions are presented
1) The more governments or those in authority can integrate
and alternate soft forms of political power (linking incentives to
persuasion) with hard forms of political power (including dis-
incentives and c oercion), the mo r e effective they will be.
2) As leaders integrate and alternate soft and hard forms of
power, their political power takes on “rubber band” and “bal-
loon” characteristics, allowing them to (a) decentralize or dele-
gate power by various methods without losing control and (b)
expand their influence in ways that predictably affect the be-
havior of wider circles of citizens, participants, and subordi-
nates. As such, it becomes a form of social energy.
3) Political elasticity depends partly on the selection of ap-
propriate political hardware (including “objective” forms of
organization, regulation, procedure, and technology) but mostly
on the enhancement of political software (i.e., policies and
practices that foster respectful relations between leaders and
4) The effectiveness of political software is directly propor-
tional to governmental success in establishing acceptable goals,
hiring qualified personnel, encouraging training, delegating
responsibility, stimulating motivation and competition, paying
attention to morale, expanding two-way flows of communica-
tion, promoting legitimacy, maintaining supervision, cultivating
contractors, protecting independent spheres of authority, and
developing conflict resolution procedures. Inasmuch as a gov-
ernment fails to do any of these commonsensical requirements
(with appropriate variations), its efforts to reform both mi-
cro-and macro-administration are going to be problematic. Yet,
progress can be measured on the basis of steps taken to improve
any aspect of these requirements.
5) Enhancing political software requires a balancing of two
forms of struggle—for competitive advantage and for consen-
sus—suggested by the various meanings of politics found in
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 19
H. H. Werlin
Wolin’s 1960 (revised, 2004: pp. 10, 11, 434) study of political
thought. Within the framework of his overarching definition of
politics (the relationship of leadership to followership for the
purpose of governance), measures taken to increase advantage
may be considered “primary politics” (i.e., partisanship) and
measures taken to build consensus may be considered “secon-
dary politics” (i.e., statesmanship).
PE theory is no different than other theories in political sci-
ence which, according to Wolin, “may be likened to a net that is
cast out to capture political phenomena, which are then drawn
in and sorted in a way that seems meaningful and relevant to
the particular thinker (p. 21).” Yet, PE theory is subject to the
criticisms that it is “untestable” and “tautological.” Based upon
proposition 4, it is clear that the theory is built upon common-
sensical assertions, each of which is also “untestable” and
“tautological.” However, to deny them is also to deny com-
monsense, which seems to be perplexing, to say the least. For
example, while the importance of hiring qualified people may
appear obvious, it cannot be used to explain the success of a
business without encountering “circular reasoning.” Moreover,
what may be “obvious” to a businessman would not be so to
most leaders in poor countries who are more concerned with
“loyalty” than with qualifications.
Nevertheless, organizational analysis, business administra-
tion, and public administration are all based upon these asser-
tions. Yet, I feel the need to emphasize this point to avoid
scholarly rejection of PE theory as a result of these criticisms.
In this regard, I have been influenced by Welden’s 1953 analy-
sis of political vocabulary, in which he shows that political
words are imprecise, subjective, and appraisive (ascriptive as
well as descriptive), thereby making controlled experimentation
(required for testability) impossible. This means that we need to
give priority to understanding the quality of political power
rather than to attempting its measurement, despite the belief of
many political scientists that “there can be no science without
measurement.” There is always a danger in using political the-
ory of “seeing what you want to see”. The only escape from
this dilemma is to view political reality from many viewpoints
which is what is her e attempted.
My Use of a C ase S tudy Appr o ach .
The justification for PE theory is simply that it is more
enlightening than other theories in regard to the most interest-
ing questions in the literature having to do with the poverty and
wealth of nations:
1) Why is it that rich countries are both more centralized and
more decentralized than poor countries?
2) Why is it that rich countries are more successful than poor
countries in permanently changing their cultur e?
3) Why is it that classical democracy is more essential than
liberal democracy for economic development?
4) Why is it that corruption is devastating for poor countries
but not for rich countries?
5) Why is it that globalization will benefit some countries far
more than others?
The case studies below are intended to illustrate the useful-
ness of PE Theory. In so doing, readers are invited to respond
to the bold assertion that PE Theory attempts to do for political
science what Darwin did for biology. For me, the following
comparative case study is as illustrative of PE theory as was
Darwin’s observations on the Galapagos Islands having to do
with variations in the shape of the beaks of finches based upon
the nuts they consumed. It should be noted in this regard that
Darwin’s observations have never been substantiated by con-
trolled experimentation (see Gould, 1977: p. 270). So, I need
not apologize for the fact that my theory also suffers in this
Solid Waste Management: Lagos and Tokyo
Lagos is the largest city in Africa, with between twelve and
eighteen million people. In the l983 Guinness Book of Records,
it was described as “the dirtiest city in the world because at that
time, only one-half of its domestic refuse generated daily was
being collected and at least one-third of the population received
no refuse collection service whatsoever (Walling et al., 2007).
This situation continues, despite the fact that between twenty
and twenty-five percent of Lagos’s budget is allocated to waste
management (Western Africa Department, 1994: p. 11). In
many areas, refuse has not been collected for years. There is no
effective public garbage collection system; and most of the
garbage and sewage collected by private operators ends up in
the lagoons and creeks, resulting in extreme health and envi-
ronmental problems. The consequences include, not only a
threat to human life, but also, prevention of agricultural and
recreational use, destruction of biotic life, and poisoning of the
natural ecosystems.
In l986, the World Bank loaned Nigeria US $164.3 million
for improving all aspects of solid waste management in Lagos.
By 1994, this project was considered a failure “inasmuch as
only one-third of the city’s daily refuse output could be col-
lected (Peil, 1996: pp. 133-139).” The country’s political soft-
ware was too weak to handle this project. Complicating this
situation was tension among the various levels of government,
preventing any form of contractual obligation and joint venture
activities among the l5 local councils the n e x i s ting in Lagos.
Nigerian officials relied heavily on coercion. In l984 they
declared a “War Against Indiscipline,” requiring civil servants
to spend Saturdays cleaning the streets and citizens, the last
Saturday morning of each month, to clean up their environment.
Mobile courts were set up to enforce the regulations emerging
from this “War Against Filth.”
While this program had temporary and limited success in
Lagos, it proved unsustainable. The Waste Disposal Board
seldom supplied garbage bins or emptied the “refuse houses”
that were constructed. It could not maintain its vehicles and
other equipment. Although sanitary inspectors were supposed
to educate people about cleanliness and punish the uncoopera-
tive, their reputation as bribe-takers undermined their authority.
Since industrial firms continued to dump their wastes wherever
it was convenient, ordinary citizens were reluctant to take en-
vironmental cleanliness very seriously. Aina, Etta, and Obi
(1984: pp. 202-216) wrote in this regard: “The disposal of re-
fuse is hardly ever done correctly, with garbage being dumped
in valleys or swamps, and untreated industrial liquid being
pumped into public drains and surface water bodies.”
In 2006, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors ap-
proved a new effort to improve solid waste management in
Lagos “by segregating collection, transfer and disposal of solid
waste and initiating private sector participation in solid waste
transfer and disposal (World Bank Press Release, 2007/3
AFR).” This project, which includes a number of other compo-
nents, amounted to an almost interest-free (International De-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
H. H. Werlin
velopment Association) loan of $200 million. However, ac-
cording to a 2007 Cornell University study, “there is no system
of accountability and oversight which impels the sector to work
efficiently (Walling et al., 2007: p. 12).” Civil servants are fre-
quently unpaid and have little incentive to carry out their re-
sponsibilities. Much of the work is left to scavengers, who are
often exploited and forced to work under extremely hazardous
conditions. This study (p. 18) concludes that the barriers here to
effective solid waste management “are not simply lack of poli-
cies but lack of infrastructure, education, social awareness of
problems and solution, and of institutions promoting sustain-
able actions.” In regard to Lagos’s infrastructure, almost no part
of the city “gets electricity all day, and vast tracks …never get
power at all (Ayitteh, 2008: p. 170).” What is necessary,
Adelegan (2007: p. 15) suggests is the substitution of a “mar-
ket-based” approach for the existing “command and control”
approach, but this requires inputs not yet available in Nigeria:
“an accurate monitoring network, transparency, a working legal
system and realistic incentives to trade.”
Daniel Jordan Smith, in his 2007 anthropological study of
Nigerian corruption, points out (p. 226) that ordinary people
hate corruption but that they are caught in webs of it, forcing
them to live with it. In other words, while “ties of kinship, ob-
ligations of patronage, and duties to the community and groups
to which an individual belongs” (p. 226) are explanatory factors,
they are intensified by institutional characteristics: the fact that
Nigerian civil servants are poorly and belatedly paid; the un-
professional conduct of the police; the lack of faith in the judi-
cial system; the dysfunctional nature of local government; and
the use of violence by officials at all levels of government.
Because corruption “is widely believed to have infected every
sector of social, economic and political life” (p. 87), people turn
to vigilante violence, but this further undermines the effective-
ness of the government. While these groups tend to “exacerbate
already powerful cleavages in the Nigerian polity,” government
officials cannot easily ban them without increasing “the very
ethnic and regional polarization they hoped to avoid” (p. 184).
The high quality of political software in Tokyo facilitates one
of the world’s best solid waste management programs, with a
different type of trash being pick up each day of the week, most
of it intended for recycling or conversion into energy (see
Hershkowitz & Salerni, 1987). Every Japanese citizen and in-
dustry participates in some way, including the handicapped,
who are employed to use compost to make botanical arrange-
ments for sale or support their activities. While soft forms of
power are primarily used, the police do inspect garbage, with
uncooperative or uninformed citizens reprimanded and fined.
Those failing to separate their garbage correctly may have to
put their names on their garbage so that it can be returned to
them for better handling.
The Japanese administration is sometimes presented as
“overbearing,” with corruption and favoritism, arbitrary and
secretive authority, suppression of individuality and conflict,
Excessive promotion of obedience and passivity, intimidation
of minorities and women, and disregard of the public (see van
Wolferen, 1989). While both Japan and Nigeria suffer from
pervasive corruption, it is somewhat controlled in Japan, not in
Nigeria. Consequently, using the terminology presented earlier,
corruption in Japan takes the form of “primary corruption,”
whereas, in Nigeria, “secondary corruption.”
The evidence in regard to solid waste management suggests
that Japanese officials are just as concerned about public opin-
ion as those in other MDCs and perhaps go to greater lengths to
satisfy the public. After all, there were, as of l99l, an estimated
20,000 environment related Japanese groups, and these have
found various ways of trying to “maintain a vigilant watch over
politicians, bureaucrats and companies (Crump, 1996: p. 121).”
Because of the concern of the Japanese about accidents, gar-
bage truck traffic, air pollution, and lowering of property values,
many communities oppose incinerators. In Tokyo, officials had
to learn the hard way during the early l970s to respect public
opinion in the handling of solid waste. During this “garbage
war,” housewives and other concerned citizens sat down in
front of garbage trucks and bulldozers until officials responded
constructively to their protests. While “the Japanese people
have great trust in the Japanese state and government,” arbitrary
governmental actions are likely to “meet with a firestorm of
disapproval (MacDougall, 1980: p. 140).”
To mollify neighborhoods willing to accept incinerators, they
are often equipped with heated swimming pools, recreation
facilities, greenhouses, workshops, and other amenities desired
by the public. Some also provide energy to sewage treatment
plants, homes for the aged, schools, public buildings, and car
wash or snow melting machinery. To alleviate citizens’ con-
cerns about emissions, data recorded by the plants are displayed
on outside billboards. Thus, despite citizen opposition during
the l980s, there were l3 incinerators operating in Tokyo, as
against only two in New York where there was far more justi-
fiable concern about air pollution.
Feeding Africa’s Urban Population
A 2011 article in The Economist (p. 47) points out that, with
the rise of maize and wheat prices by 30 percent that year, the
urban poor often end up spending half their income on food,
leading, not only to food demonstrations and riots in many
countries, but also problems of prostitution, crime, education,
sanitation, and health. A variety of reasons for this situation are
here presented: inefficient farming, the high cost of fuel, in-
adequate property rights, the poor quality of roads and trans-
portation facilities (causing an estimate loss of 40 percent of
produce), the lack of agricultural assistance and credit, etc. Yet,
all these problems eventually come back to the weakness of
public administration, as we can see from this case study of
Ghana is dependent on agriculture for nearly half of GDP
and export earnings and 70 percent of employment. While ag-
ricultural output has risen in recent years at an average rate of
about five percent, nearly forty percent of the rural population
continues to be below the poverty line, with poverty deepest
among food crop farmers, women and the savannah regions of
the north. Despite a nearly 25 percent reduction in rural poverty
since the 1990s, a 2006 African Development Bank report (p. 7)
continues to find Ghanaian agricultural outputs low relative to
their potential because of the failure to modernize farming
practices, limited irrigation, diseases, weak extension services,
land tenure problems, lack of credit, inadequate storage and
processing facilities, and poor road infrastructure. “Less than 18
percent of the country’s roads are paved and their condition has
deteriorated over recent years, while the country’s railway net-
work is almost non-functional (Brooks, Croppenstedt, & Ag-
grey-Flynn, 2007: p. 111).”
These factors are linked. For example, because much of the
land is held by traditional authority and is without clear
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H. H. Werlin
boundaries, the court system is unable to deal with land dis-
putes or the practice of selling the same parcel of land to multi-
ple owners/users. This accounts for the unwillingness of banks
to lend to farmers. While more than 60 percent of land in
Ghana is considered “agricultural land,” less than one-third of it
is currently under cultivation. More than two-thirds of the land
area is affected by moderate or very severe soil degradation,
causing an annual GDP loss of nearly ten percent (World Bank,
2007: p. 111). Gold mining has been especially detrimental in
this regard.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation ranked Ghana in 2007 fifth
among all low-income countries in regard to developmental
progress, second in Sub-Saharan Africa, and above a number of
middle-income countries. This suggests a “paradox” to the
University of Ghana’s Nicholas Amponsah (2007: p. 125), the
inability to translate its “outward and cosmetic manifestations
of the liberal state” into “economic diversification and growth.”
The answer, he suggests, has to do with persistent governmen-
tal weaknesses “especially in relation to property and land title
rights, efficiency and credibility of public bureaucratic institu-
tions, the legislature and the judiciary and a demonstrable
commitment on the part of the state to honor contractual obli-
gations.” Although President Kufour declared “zero tolerance
for corruption,” Transparency International evaluations have
not as yet indicated much progress. Part of the difficulty, Ayee
(2007: p. 172) suggests, is that rulers continue to depend “heav-
ily on the ethnic groups that brought them to power.” This may
explain why even the simplest reform (getting rid of “ghost
workers”- fictitious names on the payroll) remains so difficult.
In 2003, Ghana’s Ministry of Education was reported to have
lost $1.2 million a month in salaries because of these “ghost
workers. (Ninsin, 2007: p. 100).”
While more responsibilities continue to be transferred to dis-
trict assemblies, additional authority cannot be exercised be-
cause they “are financially and institutionally too feeble to dis-
charge these responsibilities effectively. (Gyan-Baffour, 2003:
p. 6).” Efforts of the National Development Planning Commis-
sion to provide district assemblies with trained staff failed in
recent years because of inadequate technical and logistical
support, unattractive conditions of service, and undue delay in
salary payments (Tsikata, 2007: p. 76). These district assem-
blies are also unable to keep the teachers and medical personnel
essential to improve educational and medical conditions in rural
areas, where two-thirds of Ghanaians still live. Between 1995
and 2002, about 500 doctors and 1,500 nurses left the country
(World Bank, 2007: p. 111). At least ten agencies are to some
extent responsible for land management and administration in
the country, but it is difficult to determine what they actually do
or are supposed to do and their mandates are often conflicting.
Moreover, some of these agencies are either dormant or not
functioning because of insufficient resources.
Conclusion: the Importance of Motivation
Success stories in Malawi and Peru show that progress can
be made even under authoritarian and corrupt leaders based
upon the implementation of political software requisites (see
Werlin, 1998/2001). Under President Banda in Malawi (1961-
1994), road repair was made a national priority. A management
system was installed, using micro-computers to provide needed
information at various levels of organization. Workshops were
also established to set objectives for the implementation of all
repair activities. In addition, there was a comparison of work
performance between districts, creating a spirit of competition
and an incentive for supervisors to perform to the limits of their
potential. Consequently, as of l990, only 6 percent of Malawi’s
paved roads and l6 percent of its unpaved roads were in bad
shape, compared to an estimated one-quarter of paved roads
and 40 percent of unpaved roads being in a similar dismal
shape in Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. In Peru, the percentage
of the Gross Domestic Product collected in taxes nearly tripled
during the early 1990s (from less than 5 percent to nearly 15
percent) when the tax collecting agency (Sunat) was profes-
Vietnam is an interesting example of the importance of po-
litical motivation in linking improved public administration to
economic development. A comparison of Bangladesh and
Vietnam is suggested by Yunus (the Nobel Prize winner for his
micro-credit innovations), noting (p. 12) that Vietnam’s success
in reducing its poverty rate to 20 percent (as against more than
50 percent in Bangladesh) is partly linked to its greater success
in attracting Foreign Direct Investment ($20 billion in 2006, as
against only $700 million for Bangladesh, with twice Viet-
nam’s population). In 1999, Bangladesh and Vietnam had ex-
actly the same GNP per capita ($370), using World Bank
(2000/2001: pp. 274-275) data; but Vietnam has clearly done
better than Bangladesh in recent years in improving economic
and social conditions. According to The Economist (April 26,
2008: p. 3), average annual growth over the past decade has
been 7.5 per cent; and, not only has it become a big exporter of
clothes, shoes, and furniture, but also “one of the world’s main
providers of farm produce.” More than 90 percent of house-
holds have electricity. Even in rural areas, most have stoves,
television, and mobile phones. Less than 10 percent of the
population is illiterate, and higher education is being empha-
sized, with rich countries being invited to set up universities
and training facilities. World Bank sources indicate that ex-
treme poverty (less than $1 a day) has declined from about 58%
in 1993 to about 25%. Purchasing Power Parity figures suggest
that the ordinary Vietnamese citizen at $2310 was in 2006
about twice as wealthy as his Bangladeshi counterpart (at
Explaining Vietnam’s economic and social progress is diffi-
cult, considering that it remains an authoritarian country, with a
weak judicial system, limited press freedom, and a bloated
bureaucracy. The 2008 Danish Global Advice Network (Den-
mark, 2008: p. 1) suggests that corruption costs the country 3%
- 4% of its GDP annually, with more than two-thirds of compa-
nies and citizens reporting “informal payments” in order “to get
things done.” Starting a business, registering property, and
paying taxes seem to be far more time-consuming than the av-
erage for East Asia. Moreover, businesses have to waste a great
deal of time “trying to follow, evade, or adjudicate complex or
unclear legal regulations that even judges and lawyers often do
not understand (The Economist, April 26, 2008: p. 3).”
Using an interesting 2004 comparison of Tanzania and Viet-
nam (Van Arkadie, Dinh, 2004: p. 27), we are left with the
simple explanation that Vietnam has taken development more
seriously than equally impoverished countries in recent years:
“Vietnam has replicated what could be seen as an East Asian
model of the development state, which is both flexible in the
use of market instruments, but pragmatic about the require-
ments for active State intervention when required to implement
national development goals.” In doing so, it has exercised “so-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
H. H. Werlin
cial energy,” not only actively investing its own resources in
infrastructure and human resource development, but also re-
taining an active State Enterprise sector and providing strong
planning and policy guidance regarding medium-term growth
goals (Van Arkadie & Dinh, 2004, p. 27).” While Vietnam
remains formally undemocratic, it has been cautious and prag-
matic in its approach to economic reform, emphasizing con-
sensus-building and learning-by-doing. This conclusion is sup-
ported by a 2001 World Bank evaluation report (2001: p. 3)
having to do with Vietnam resettlement projects, in which it is
noted that Vietnam has demonstrated a willingness to revise its
policies out of “a concern for equity and for alleviating pov-
erty.” Land reform has been also been equitably undertaken,
with farmers given long leases. Consequently, there is no evi-
dence of the rural or urban misery found in so many other de-
veloping countries, nor is there evidence of political unrest
except possibly in remote areas where there are concentrations
of ethnic minorities.
Elastic decentralization is evident in Vietnam. On the one
hand, Vietnam remains a one-party centralized system, with the
central government collecting all nontrade revenue, approving
new taxes, and setting the rates for existing taxes (Smoke, 2005:
pp. 25-52: Joint Donor Report, 2005: p. 24). On the other hand,
nearly half of total expenditures are undertaken by sub-national
entities using several types of intergovernmental transfers or
block grants, based upon negotiations among various levels of
government, together with consideration of local circumstances
and priorities White, Smoke, 2005: p. 2). According to a 2005
report of various donor organizations (2005: p. 24), Vietnam
has had a very successful program to reach the poorest house-
holds and communities with social and health services, relying
on “targeted programs to ensure that national goals are met in
spite of the increasing extent of decentralization.” The fact that
civil servants are carefully selected and well compensated ap-
parently contributes to Vietnam’s outstanding performance and
its ability to keep corruption roughly comparable to “what
could be expected given the country’s current development
level (Joint Donor Group, 2005: p. 24).”
Final Thoughts
Dwight Waldo (who died in October, 2000, to the dismay of
his students, including myself) never lost his mixed feelings
about administration. He argued (Waldo, 1980: p. 30) that the
“enterprises of civilization and administration have from the
beginning been intimately joined, each sustaining and stimulat-
ing the other.” However, as did Max Weber, Waldo feared what
he believed to be the inevitable triumph of bureaucracy. He
frequently quoted Weber’s famous threat: “The bureaucratic
organization is, together with lifeless machinery, about to pro-
duce the iron cage of future serfdom in which men will have to
live helplessly like the fellahin in Egypt... (Waldo, l980: p. 139).
“Yet, a successful democracy requires an efficient and effective
However, there has also been an evolution of the concept of
political power in regard to bureaucracy. According to Kenney
and Florida (1993), the Japanese model has been successful
because of its non-Weberian characteristics: self-managing
work teams, job-rotation, overlapping functions, flexible and
limited job classifications and specialization, close alignment
between work and home life, social control rather than control
from above, use of persuasion rather than commands, white
collar/blue collar overlap, welfare corporatism, labor-manage-
ment cooperation, quality circles, innovation from below, and
continual training. The “entrepreneurial government” advocated
by Osborne and Gaebler (1992)—decentralized, problem-solv-
ing, innovative, responsive to consumer concerns, and both
cooperative and competitive with the private sector—also sug-
gests the need to reexamine the Weberian model and the tradi-
tional concept of political power.
Baldwin (1989) spends an entire chapter discussing the dif-
ficulties of determining the costs of political power. These dif-
ficulties, as I see them, stem from the fact that, they are not
really monetary but have to do with the requisites for political
software development presented in the fourth proposition of PE
theory. This can perhaps be seen in a comparison of South Ko-
rea and Ghana in the introduction of a Value Added Tax
When South Korea introduced a VAT in l977, the govern-
ment took two years to prepare for its implementation (Choi,
1991: pp. 286-340). Nationwide tryout exercises were carried
out on three separate occasions before the changeover to the
VAT. Along with a consultation and information program, it
expanded and retrained its tax administration staff. A staff
handbook was prepared in anticipation of questions by staff and
taxpayers. While difficulties and criticisms remain, the VAT is
considered relatively successful and an improvement over the
indirect taxes it replaced
Ghana, on the other hand, carelessly introduced a high VAT
(set at 17 percent of the price of many commodities and ser-
vices) in February, l995, without proper consultation with
business and community groups (Berry, 1995: p. xxxiv). It led
on May 11, 1995 to the largest protest demonstrations in Accra
during the Rawlings administration. Eventually (June, l995),
the government was forced to return to a national sales tax be-
fore some years later and more carefully reintroducing the
Finally, the reason why political power must be considered a
“relationship,” as well as a resource is well explained in a 2004
World Bank publication, Doing Business in 2004. Businesses in
poor countries face three times the administrative costs and
nearly twice as many bureaucratic procedures (causing long
delays) as in wealthy countries. Consequently, in poor countries,
40% of the economy is informal, with businesses lacking access
to credit or legal protection. Moreover, property owners in poor
countries are accorded less than half the protections of their
counterparts in rich countries. This means that governments in
poor countries are unable to either induce or persuade busi-
nesses to take advantage of economic opportunities, even when
they are genuinely interested in expanding their businesses. In
Kenya, for example, between 1999 and 2002, nearly 150 for-
eign investors left Nairobi, citing corruption, poor infrastructure,
bureaucratic bottlenecks, and increased crime rates (Katumana
& Cliffe, 2005; USAID, 2005). These problems, according to
the World Bank (2004), meant that the economy as a whole was
growing at only about one-third of its potential.
We might end this essay with the point made by John Rapley
in his 2006 Foreign Affairs article, “The New Middle Ages (p.
95),” that in much of the developing world, “groups ranging
from criminal gangs to Islamist civil-society networks have
assumed many of the functions that states have abandoned,
funding their operations through informal taxes as well as with
proceeds from the drug trade, human trafficking, and money
laundering”. People under these circumstances are not so much
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 23
H. H. Werlin
concerned about democracy as they are about security and ser-
vices. Consequently, they support “political machines” (similar
to those found a century ago in many American cities), with
votes being “sold” to those who offer jobs, safety, and the ne-
cessities of life. As a result, partisanship prevails over states-
manship, underscoring the inadequacy of political software as
the primary reason for the poverty of nations. For this to change,
political leaders are going to have to see political power as a
“form of social energy,” rather than as “a form of coercion,”
with an “all or nothing” connotation. Without an “enabling
environment.” economic development will remain impossible.
The weakness of so many impoverished countries may sim-
ply be due to the unwillingness of their leaders to undertake
reform. In other words, as pointed out in a recent (2012) book
(Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and
Power by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson), poor
countries are poor because leaders purposely make them so.
The reasons have to do with fear of losing power, the desire for
personal wealth, ideological considerations, and the need for
powerful allies. Examples include: the destruction of a railroad
to the affluent south in Sierra Leone; the giving of land to po-
litical supporters without land rights security in Zimbabwe; the
prevention of capitalism in the Soviet Union; and the misuse of
marketing boards in Africa to impoverish farmers. Unless these
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