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William Easterly: In Politics, as in Development, Success is Feetingly Fleeting

November 4, 2010

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**By William Easterly**

billeasterly.jpg

easterly-william03.jpgThis blog has frequently pointed out that economic growth successes don’t last—rapid growth is fleeting.

After Tuesday’s election, we are reminded that political success doesn’t last either. An action in one direction is followed by an equal and opposite reaction in the other.

The situation of one party having both the Presidency and a majority in the House has been rare in the postwar era, and when it happens, it doesn’t last very long.

We often point out that analysis of rapid growth “miracles” is faulty because it fails to notice that the miracles will likely disappear very soon.

Likewise, would behavior of political actors be different—such as giving moderates in each party much more say—if both sides fully realized that an electoral “mandate” is a very frail and short-lived creature?

Copyright 2010 William Easterly

Guernica note: We wonder if maybe this graph, which shows the number of House seats held by each party as compared to when each party has controlled the presidency, would clearest if it were turned vertically. This is because the graph currently depicts all Republican House seats in negative numbers. Though, as one commenter on the original post wrote, “All Republicans are negatives, my friend.”

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This post originally appeared at AidWatch.com

William Easterly is Professor of Economics at New York University, joint with Africa House, and Co-Director of NYU’s Development Research Institute. He is editor of Aid Watch blog, and is the author of The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006) and The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT, 2001), among others.

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