I just finished reading Economic Gangsters by Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel. I picked up the book based on the fact that it happened to be on Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw's freshman seminar reading list this fall (as posted on his blog). I immediately recognized Ray's name, since we went to graduate school together, and decided to take a look at the book.
Economic Gangsters offers a fascinating examination of the challenges associated with promoting economic development in the world's poorest nations. Fisman and Miguel examine the behavior of corrupt officials and governments, using ingenious research methods to learn more about their actions and the impact of their actions. They do a great job of analyzing the link between corruption and poverty.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book involves the examination culture and its link to corruption. They study the likelihood that various countries' United Nations diplomats will park illegally in New York City and not pay those parking tickets. By looking at parking tickets in New York, they gain insight as to whether culture may play a role in making people less likely to adhere to the rule of law.
In another part of the book, they examine violence in Africa. They trace the impact of droughts in Africa, showing that they substantially increase the risk of a subsequent civil war. Thus, they recommend intervening with economic aid during droughts, so as to reduce the odds of violence and war.
All in all, it's a very interesting read for those eager to learn more about the challenges associated with promoting economic development in some of the world's poorest nations.