The ISIS Files are now available online

Here’s a description:

The ISIS Files provide a unique cross-sectional snapshot of life in Mosul under the Islamic State, spanning doctrinal guidance from its command to the paperwork of its bureaucracy to the notes of students in its classrooms. The picture that emerges from this repository is revealing in both its range and complexity. On the one hand, documents from the Islamic Police and Agriculture departments tell of an organization seemingly obsessed with bureaucracy and institutionalizing every detail of its system of control. On the other, Arendt’s “banality of evil” comes to 6 mind when reading the paperwork of its real estate and zakat (alms tax for the poor) offices, or the bored scribblings of da’wa (proselytization) and military students in the Islamic State’s classrooms (emphasis added). By understanding The ISIS Files as a snapshot of life under the Islamic State’s control, the publications that will accompany each tranche of primary source materials released on the online repository have an important role to play in establishing their historic and strategic context.

There is a lot more here.

On the Worldwide Bureaucracy Indicators Database

Pamela Jakiela over at CGD has a great post on the quality and composition of bureaucracies across the world. Like Jakiela, I was struck by this finding:

Across all countries in the WWBI data set, there is a huge amount of variation in the share of public employment concentrated in rural areas. However, rural public employment is very highly correlated with rural private employment—almost all the date points in the figure above are centered around the 45-degree line. One interpretation is that governments’ apparent urban biases may just reflect the concentration of economic activity in urban centers—and not any inherent desire to target government benefits toward urbanites. Or perhaps urban bias is a thing of the past. In any case, it is conspicuously absent from the WWBI data.Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 10.18.31 AM

Makes you wonder whether urban bias has always been a Zambian Copperbelt thing with little traction elsewhere.

More broadly, I am happy that the Bank appears to be caring more about government and not just governance.

Bureaucratic capacity is a critical component of government and stateness. Based on my experience so far studying the political economy of development, if I had to pick a factor that is absolutely fundamental for the realization of long-run economic development it would be stateness.

If you think about it, a lot of the low-hanging fruits in development that could get many countries to lower middle income status and beyond — for example, agricultural productivity, petty manufacturing, rationalized construction sectors, healthcare, education, and water and sanitation — require a modicum of political stability, security, and mere copying and pasting of policy ideas from elsewhere (with sensitivity to local conditions and with some scope for experimentation).

Strong states can do this. Weak states cannot.