A Capital Challenge

Watching the attempts of the red-shirts to change the Thai government by bringing Bangkok to a standstill, I was reminded of the observation that Alberto Alesina and Ed Glaeser make in their book Fighting Poverty. In countries where the largest city is also the capital, it’s easier for mass movements to bring about populist reforms. For example you could mobilise a bigger crowd in Paris or Brussels than you could in Washington DC or Ottawa, which goes part way towards explaining the different political complexion of the two sets of countries.

At this point, I wonder if Thai leadership are ruing the eighteenth-century decision to move the seat of government from Thonburi to Bangkok?

2 thoughts on “A Capital Challenge”

  1. Andrew, Of course Thonburi is immediately across the Chao Prya River from Bangkok – I believe it is now part of metropolitan Bangkok. I think it was only the capital of Thailand for a short period after the sacking of the long-standing capital of Thailand, Ayudhuya, by the Burmese in the 1760s.

    The events in Thailand are tragic beyond belief.  When I left the country in 1988 it was getting rid of the dominance of the military – people were sick of coups – and Thiland was prospering as a rapidly-developing democracy.

    Then the Thai middle classes decided to force Mr Taksin out irrespective of his popularity.  It should have been fought at the ballot box.  The precedent is now set – if you don’t like a leader organise a democ and get rid of them.  It makes effective government imposasible.

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  2. Thonburi was more vulnerable to Burmese invaders (being on the west side of the river) and had less developed port facilities.

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