Listen to the EconTalk podcast Paul Collier on the Bottom Billion and consider these questions.


1. Who are the “bottom billion” and what distinguishes them from the rest of mankind?

2. Collier says that the bottom billion tend to suffer from four “traps.” What are these traps and what characterizes them?

3. Host Russ Roberts suggests a “supply-side counterweight” helps to explain why poorer countries are disproportionately likely to suffer frequent rebellions. What does he mean by this?

4. What is the relationship between the level of conflict in the bottom billion countries and the amount of political repression they suffer, according to Collier and Roberts? Why do they believe this relationship exists?

5. How do abundant natural resources contribute to rendering the public purses of the bottom billion tragedies of the commons?

6. Roberts identifies two different types of foreign aid– well-intentioned aid and aid as a component of a nation’s larger foreign policy. What are the weaknesses of each? Under what circumstances might one be preferable to the other?

7. Collier describes democratic government in the bottom billions as “survival of the fattest”. What does he mean by this, and what sorts of checks and balances does Collier believe are missing in the bottom billion?

8. What trade and agricultural policy recommendations does Collier offer to assist the bottom billion?

9. Collier calls for international standards for natural resource management and for election procedures in the bottom billion. What specific suggestions does he offer? How can such standards be made enforceable, and when should they be?

10. At the end of the interview, Roberts describes Collier as being “somewhere between Sachs and Easterly”. What does Roberts mean? Is this indeed a “cheap shot”? Why?