Do Tropical Gangsters Have Good Intentions? A Comparative Review of Robert Klitgaard and Thomas Dichter, Journal of GMS Development Studies, Vol. 1, pp. 89-104
Rosario, Tess Del | December 2004
Two books are reviewed, both written by development practitioners of long standing.Robert Klitgaard’s Tropical Gangsters was published in 1990, and Thomas Dichter’s Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance Has Failed, in 2003. The former was a bestseller and chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 1990. Both books are enlivening, and uniquely represent an experimental method in the portrayal of development. Klitgaard and Dichter offer two very different, alternative, and refreshing writing styles. In a departure from traditional empiricist science, Klitgaard is autobiographical whereas Dichter interweaves 18 short stories in analytical chapters. Together, they provide lively and often provocative insights into development assistance — the wrong turns, the dead ends, the mishaps and the missteps, and even the prohibited zones. But they also offer new directions and possibilities for rethinking development practice. Development of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and its assistance by ambitious programs of the international development community are considered in light of the numerous lessons gained by the two authors in nearly thirty years of development experience.