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Why do governments turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and with what effects? In this book, James Vreeland examines this question by analyzing cross-national time-series data from throughout the world. Vreeland argues that governments enter into IMF programs for economic and political reasons, and he finds that the programs hurt economic growth and redistribute income upward. By bringing in the IMF, governments gain political leverage - via conditionality - to push through unpopular policies. For certain constituencies, these policies dampen the effects of bad economic performance by redistributing income. But IMF programs doubly hurt others who are less well off: They lower growth and exacerbate income inequality.
Trades of money for political influence persist at every level of government. Not surprisingly, governments themselves trade money for political support on the international stage. Strange, however, is the tale of this book. For, in this study, legitimacy stands as the central political commodity at stake. The book investigates the ways governments trade money for favors at the United Nations Security Council - the body endowed with the international legal authority to legitimize the use of armed force to maintain or restore peace. With a wealth of quantitative data, the book shows that powerful countries, such as the United States, Japan, and Germany, extend financial favors to the elected members of the Security Council through direct foreign aid and through international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In return, developing countries serving on the Security Council must deliver their political support . . . or face the consequences.
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