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Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: The Problem of Knowledge

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Western aid agencies prescribe rule-of-law programs to cure a remarkably wide array of ailments in developing and post-communist countries, from corruption and surging crime to lagging foreign investment and growth. Yet there is a surprising amount of uncertainty about their actual impact on these problems, as well as a lack of knowledge at many levels of conception, operation, and evaluation of the entire rule-of-law field.

In this new working paper, Thomas Carothers argues that the rapidly growing field of rule-of-law assistance is operating from a disturbingly thin base of knowledge--with respect to the core rationale of the work, how change in the rule of law occurs, and the real effects of the changes that are produced.