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Interest Associations and Economic Growth: A Critique of Mancur Olson's "Rise and Decline of Nations"

Brigitte Unger and Frans van Waarden
Review of International Political Economy
Vol. 6, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 425-467
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4177322
Page Count: 43
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Interest Associations and Economic Growth: A Critique of Mancur Olson's
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Abstract

The article contradicts the thesis of Mancur Olson on the relation between interest associations and economic growth, presented in his book "The Rise and Decline of Nations." It is based on empirical evidence from studies on interest associations and on sectoral corporatism. First, contrary to Olson's assumptions, the number of associations has not increased over time. Instead, mergers have reduced their numbers. Nor did war break up 'distributional coalitions' but strengthened them and made them more comprehensive. Second, contrary to Olson's view, more associations do not mean they have more political influence, hence greater bias in public policy. Third, interest associations are not necessarily detrimental to economic performance and growth. By contrast, we provide evidence that interest associations can make a positive contribution to economic performance. This undermines the overall argument that political stability produces more particularistic interest associations and increases institutional sclerosis, thus diminishing economic performance and growth.

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