I confess that until Martin Tisne turned me on to this Development Drums podcast, I’d known Mushtaq Khan only as the reverently cited sage that kept cropping up again and again in the footnotes of every book and paper I’ve read these last few months.
What a blindspot to have! Mushtaq Khan in full flow is a thing of beauty: the development equivalent to Karim Benzema chasing a winning goal.
An heterodox anglo-bangladeshi development studies professor at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Khan has long advocated for the type of nuanced, realpolitik-view of corruption’s role in development that Doug North’s writing initially turned me on to. In this 2009 recording, the legendary Owen Barder moderates as Khan debates the impact of corruption on development with eminent Chilean economist Daniel Kaufmann.
It’s no disrespect to Kaufmann to say Khan absolutely overshadows him, though, with a dexterity of argument and clarity of vision that’s just spellbinding. “The question,” Khan wants to ask, “is why do some poor country elites make their money by growing their economies and others make their money by ruining the economies?”
He’s terrifyingly funny as he pours scorn on the pathetic little mansions Mobutu built himself in Congo (pictured), next to the proper, big-time corruption of the Chinese elite. “It’s just a completely different scale,” he says.
Any gloss I could give his enormously elegant, entertaining rants would sell them short. Just go and listen to it.