European and Asian states provided police, military control, and access to justice (of a sort) long before they provided schools, clinics and electricity.Donors, however, have encouraged developing countries go the other way 'round.
Among the questions to be asked are: to what extent does it matter? If the original social contracts of the West were built around providing security to the richest and worked their way down to poorer members of society, what prevents a social contract built around providing other public goods to the richest and working their way down to poorer members of society? Is the problem that the contract is between donors and government rather than citizens? Is the problem one of capacity: if it requires more capacity to provide education and health care than police protection and property laws, the one builds into the other. Is the problem that the rich do not need the government to provide the modern public goods and so are not on board while it is harder to get the poor into the social contract? Is the problem ethnic diversity or other lack of social capital that slows any contract formation? Is there no problem - it just takes a little longer?
To borrow a phrase from Tyler Cowen: “Views I toy with but do not (yet?) hold”:
- State weakness in Africa may be exacerbated by attempting to graft the West’s idea of a 20th century developmental state onto structures not fully capable of providing the basic bits of law and order.
- The international system and aid can exacerbate the problem by pushing the state to build a public education and health system ahead of more core state functions.
- Conspicuously, there is no Millennium Development Goal for access to a court system, or freedom from crime and violence. Everyone has heard of UNICEF, few have heard of UNPOL.
- I would bet that more donors and non-profit organizations focus on microfinance than justice, by a factor of five to ten.