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Why did state building fail in Afghanistan? What are the root causes of corruption and endemic poor governance? Ilia Murtazashvili from the University of Pittsburgh joins us for a conversation on the lessons Afghanistan teaches us about state predation and potential ways it can be reversed.

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The Guest

Ilia Murtazashvili is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in political economy, institutional design, land governance, public policy, and public administration. Substantively, he is interested in emergence and change in property rights institutions, American political development, challenges of public administration in weakly institutionalized contexts, and the relationship between property rights and security in fragile states. He has written on emergence and change in property rights on the American frontier, self-governance of land relations in a diversity of contexts both in the US and the developing world, the relationship between land and state-building in Afghanistan, and on the governance of hydraulic fracturing. His current research focuses on the relationship between governance and legal titling in the developing world, the implications of economic studies of anarchy for public policy, the link between institutions and the shale boom in the US, and on lessons of the American frontier for current challenges confronting developing countries seeking to improve prospects for economic development and political stability.

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1:11: In the literature on political economy, there are two views about how the state behaves. What are these views and which one better describes what we see in the real world?

4:15: What do you think is missing from our political science frameworks? How can we improve the theory of state predation?

7:41: Your latest paper is about Afghanistan, a country that has seen little in the way of political or economic development despite trillions of dollars of investment from the international community. Why do you think state building has failed there?

11:35: How has a history of foreign intervention affected the modern-day Afghan state?

14:45: What does predation actually look like in Afghanistan?

17:30: What role does self governance play in Afghanistan? Has customary law been important in counteracting state predation?

21:11: Where does the Taliban fit into your framework of self governance? Can’t self governing systems be predatory in their own way?

25:04: Does the state actually exist in Afghanistan, or are we actually only observing groups competing for power? Where does a framework of state predation fit here?

27:50: Let’s go back to the four variables that can reduce state predation: a strong monopoly on coercion, robust political institutions, the lack of foreign intervention and the presence of self-governing institutions. Could Afghanistan realistically reverse course by following these ideals as a blueprint?

32:55: To some degree, we know the variables that are correlated with good governance. But in much of the developing world, political actors don’t have incentives to relinquish power and those societies get stuck in transition. Do we have a decent theory of development or is it merely a matter of historical accident?

38:17: What does Afghanistan’s experience teach the developed world about state building and foreign aid? Should the west stop all forms of intervention abroad?

40:54: What’s the role of culture in inhibiting the development of a commercial society in Afghanistan?

44:28: You have a new project on the horizon that compares governance in the US, China and Afghanistan. What do you expect to find in that comparison?