Frontpage Magazine has reprinted a WSJ opinion piece from Wednesday by Steve Haber, Doug North, and Barry Weingast entitled “If Economists Are So Smart, Why Is Africa So Poor?” (although the first clause of the title does not appear on the Frontpage site, more’s the pity). This piece is a succinct statement of the problems of institutional formation and change facing African countries:

In effect, solving the development problem in Africa requires the crafting of political institutions that limit the discretion and authority of government and, more saliently, of individual actors within the government. No simple recipe for limiting government exists. Yet two principles are clear. First, the countries of Africa must create mechanisms and incentives for different branches and levels of government to impose sanctions on one another if they exceed the authority granted to them by the law. Second, these sanctions cannot be imposed in an arbitrary or ad hoc fashion: the sanction mechanisms themselves must be limited by the law.

Read the whole thing.