Jan. 18, 2011, 4:03 p.m.
Writing in the Center for International Development at Harvard, Merilee S. Grindle explores the spread of good governance as a policy tool.
Good governance has grown rapidly to become a major ingredient in analyses of what's missing in countries struggling for economic and political development. Intuitively and in research, good governance is a seductive idea-who, after all, can reasonably defend bad governance? Nevertheless, the popularity of the idea has far outpaced its capacity to deliver. In its brief life, it has also muddied the waters of thinking about the development process, and has become conflated with the capacity to generate growth, alleviate poverty, and bring effective democracy to peoples in poor countries. Scholars and practitioners need to develop a reasonable understanding of what good governance can deliver-and what it cannot. They must also assume more realistic expectations about how much good governance can be expected in poor countries struggling with a plethora of demands on their capacities to pursue change. In this paper, I explore how and why the concept of good governance emerged and grew, and then suggest ways that academics and practitioners can become more sensitive to the limitations of fads and to curb the tendency toward idea inflation.