The Fallow State: Liberalism Against Public Works in Latin America -- Democracy in Hard Places Seminar


Thursday, March 29, 2018, 4:15pm to 5:30pm


Ash Center Foyer, 124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200 North

Join Alisha Holland, Assistant Professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University and author of Forbearance as Redistribution: The Politics of Informal Welfare in Latin America, in discussion. Scott Mainwaring, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor of Brazile Studies, HKS, will moderate.

Why do some governments fail to spend their budgets?  It seems like an odd question to ask, particularly in developing countries where debt crises have crippled economies.  Yet certain types of funds—particularly those for infrastructure—routinely go unspent.  During this discussion Holland will argue that different historical traditions of liberalism alter the state’s ability to acquire land needed for infrastructure and thus lead allocated funds to “lay fallow."  Liberal rights protections increase classic holdout problems, but they come with a twist in developing countries: they motivate land invasions to extract payouts and empower communities to stall infrastructure to bargain for local public goods.  Holland documents these effects through case studies of highway projects in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru; novel measures of state takings power based on the linearity of roads relative to surrounding geographic features; and public opinion data on support for land takings from across Latin America.  

This discussion is part of the Ash Center's Democracy in Hard Places Initiative, a program co-directed by Scott Mainwaring, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor of Brazil Studies, and Tarek Masoud, Professor of Public Policy and Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations. Democracy in Hard Places aims to foster social science research on democratic experiments—both successful and failed—throughout the developing world to learn how democracy can be built and maintained in a variety of terrains. The initiative's seminar series brings to campus distinguished scholars and practitioners to analyze the conditions, institutions, and behaviors that enable democracy to survey in hard places.