Stephen Haber

The Journal of Economic History
Volume 67 / Issue 02 / June 2007, pp 545-546
Reviewed by Alan Dye

Referring to the mission of “bringing democracy to the Middle East,” President Bush has argued that it cannot be abandoned because the alternatives are unacceptable. The problem is that the historical record does not offer a single example of a country that has moved directly from political instability to limited government. It may well be that first-best is not feasible. Is there a second-best?

In the search for a way forward, Mexico is worthy of greater attention. Plagued after independence by chronic political instability, Mexico’s political institutions progressed in the last hundred years from stable dictatorship to one-party government to become, by the end of the century, an inspiring example of successful transition to electoral democracy. Before the appearance of The Politics of Property Rights, it would have been difficult to draw a valid comparison from the literature. Many understood the significance, but no one had effectively articulated the institutional underpinnings of Mexico’s successful transition to democracy.

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