The Bottom Billion By Paul Collier

By Paul Collier
Oxford University Press, 224 pp., $15, August 2008, 9780195373387

Amazon, Bookshop

Ask any ‘third worlder’—including me—and chances are, he/she will tell you how dirty and poor his/her country is, and how it is likely to remain that way in the foreseeable future. Why are some nations poor? Why these nations stay dirty and undeveloped despite our globalized reality? And why are they likely to stay poor, unless something is done? And, if we want to do something, what should we do about it? This post is about all of these questions—a summary and a review written while reading Paul Collier’s Book: The Bottom Billion.


Paul Collier developed a notion he named the “conflict trap”. His aim is to show how some economic conditions prompt civil war, and how the resulting conflict often becomes a trap—one that is hard to escape.
Four different traps are behind the horrible situation people are living within the bottom billion:

  1. The Conflict Trap
  2. The Natural Resources Trap
  3. The Trap of Being Landlocked
  4. The Trap of Bad Governance in a Small Country

Globalization to the Rescue?

Even during the golden decade—between the end of the cold war and 9/11—these countries still suffered, and captured nothing of what the rest of the world has been going through. In fact, income during this same decade fell by 5%.

That’s why the later countries escape the traps, and begin to take the right track, the harder it is for them to catch up, because the global market is now much more tough for new participants than it was in the 1980s.

The Struggle for the Bottom Billion

The author isn’t trying to offer a one and only explanation for the failures of certain nations to catch up with the Global development train—of beginning to reduce poverty for the first time in history since the 1980s. He acknowledges the diversity of the situation within the bottom billion.

The left could learn that maybe some instruments they’d been avoiding to use—like military interventions—are sometimes effective, or even the only viable option to improve or change the situation.
And, the right can learn that “global growth” doesn’t always bring relief to the Bottom Billion.

The problem matters. And it matters even more to voters and decision makers in the developed world. Because, if they keep ignoring what’s happening within the Bottom Billion, soon enough, the ramifications will land themselves clear in the west—think mass immigration, terrorism, etc..

Paul Collier intended this book to be an enjoyable read through keeping “clear of footnotes and the rest of the usual grim apparatus of professional scholarship,” as he declared from the start.

Nor that this book is a chewing gum for the mind—if you have an attention for details, then all you have to do is to take a look at the book’s ending section and you will find what amuses your tastes and your erudite cravings.

Paul Collier

Paul Collier is a professor at Oxford. He had directed the World Bank’s research department. He’d also taught at Harvard.

Paul Collier’s previous books include Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, and Greed is Dead: Politics after Individualism.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you can support my work by buying me a book (one time donation) or by becoming a patron.

0 Kudos

How Iran Went Through 3 Coups in 28 Years

Iran’s opposition to foreign powers interfering in its domestic affairs reflect its historical urge for sovereignty, it stems from the fact that a nation, with such a rich history and culture, a nation that had been invaded and exploited by the Russian and by the British during the last two centuries, needs and deserves a place amongst the developed nations.

And so, Iran is “cursed” by its own Geostrategic importance and rich natural resources (Patrikarakos, 2012).

During the 20th century, and apart from the 1979 Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, Iran went through three military coups.

Overthrowing Reza Shah (1941)

One of them happened when Reza Shah was ‘peacefully’ overthrown on September 16th 1941, put in an ‘unmarked car’ and was dubbed ex-Shah now after the British had decided that his time in power had come to an end. The next day, at 4:30 in the afternoon, his 21-year-old son Mohamed Reza Pahlavi emerged as the new Shah of Iran. His reign will last till 1979.

Why did they overthrown him? Well, Britain and The Soviet Union, launched Operation Countenance on August 25th 1941, after feeling that Reza Shah’s official position of neutrality is suspicious and after watching Iran and Germany get ‘uncomfortably close’ during the 1930s. The Operation would consist of invading Iran in order to secure Iran’s oilfields and supply lines, after Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, began invading USSR, breaking the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact between them (Patrikarakos, 2012).

Ending The Qajar Dynasty (1925)

You go back twenty years earlier, in 1925 to be accurate, and you discover that the same British that removed Reza Shah from power are the ones who made him The Shah after they ended a century-old Qajar Dynasty.

1953 CIA’s Coup D’etat: Overthrowing Mohamed Mossadeq

Pro Mossadeq demonstration in Tehran, 1952. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The same pattern seems to continue, but this time with Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq—who had been democratically elected—was overthrown by a CIA American-British engineered coup d’état, as part of Operation Ajax. Mossadeq’s popularity grew to a level that became concerning to the Shah. Few months after being overthrown, the nationalist leader, was “led into his court trial”. During his reign as a prime minister, he stood for his country and, he was known for his “honesty and integrity, strongly opposing foreign meddling in Iran at the time when most Iranians perceived many of their economic and political hardships as originating from such influence”(Petherick, 2006 ). Eventually, he was sentenced due death, and hadn’t it been for his age— later, the sentence was commuted—he would’ve faced the same end as that of Saddam Hussein, forty years earlier.

And so, Iran had had THREE military coups during 28 years (1925-1953).

If you enjoyed reading this post, you can support my work by buying me a book (one time donation) or by becoming a patron.

1 Kudos