Chris Blattman

What Andrew Jackson teaches us about modern day development

I am reading this superb biography of Andrew Jackson. It is more a page turner than some novels.

Some interesting facts about the man on the $20 bill:

  • He was a child soldier in the American Revolution
  • Later in life he was, by many definitions, a genocidaire
  • His first real job was a voracious litigator on the Tennessee frontier, mostly helping enforce debt contracts

It occurs to me that the main difference between 21st century Africa and 18th century USA is not the number of ex-combatants and genocidaires in politics. The remarkable difference might be that one had political systems and institutions where a young man could make his fortune in the middle of nowhere enforcing property rights.

6 Responses

  1. Or perhaps its the external institutions that stifle the modern child soldier and genocidaire? Institutions that label you as victim or criminal (possibly rightly) and constrain your aspirations?

  2. I enjoyed What Hath God Wraught, which you recommended earlier here, and now will also add this biography to my reading list. Any other recommendations from that era?

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