From Bloomberg.com: Iraq Is Bound to Fail, Based on Squiggly Index: Amity Shlaes
It is obvious that Iraq will never make it. Afghanistan may do a little better.
The reason lies not with Donald Rumsfeld's policies, whatever you feel about the Defense secretary. Nor does the answer have to do with religious fundamentalism. The problem with Iraq is, it is insufficiently squiggly.
That is the conclusion of a recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The paper's approach is not the traditional political or diplomatic one. Rather, it is based on maps and geometry -- angles and lines.
Authors Alberto Alesina and Janina Matuszeski of Harvard University and William Easterly at New York University divided countries into two categories: natural and artificial. A natural state is one defined by ethnicity and geographic features such as mountain ranges. Mountains reinforce ethnic communities -- if only by isolating them. Natural national borders would tend to be bumpy.
The map of an artificial state by contrast looks like it was drawn with a ruler, which it often was. Its straight borders sometimes partition ethnic communities, placing them in two countries. Other times, they place tribes that are hostile to one another in the same nation.
Most nations have borders that are a combination of lines and bumps, so the authors developed a mathematical measure to quantify the extent of border bumpiness, which they called squiggliness. Since borders on oceans are extremely squiggly, the authors controlled for that and studied only the squiggliness of national borders with other nations. Their thesis is that it is better to be natural than artificial, and that squiggliness is good for growth and stability.