Banana republic

political science term for a politically unstable country

In political science, the term banana republic describes a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon the export of natural resources. In 1904, the American author O. Henry coined the term to describe Honduras and neighboring countries under economic exploitation by U.S. corporations, such as the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International). Typically, a banana republic has a society of extremely stratified social classes, usually a large impoverished working class and a ruling class plutocracy, composed of the business, political, and military elites. The ruling class controls the primary sector of the economy by way of the exploitation of labor; thus, the term banana republic is a pejorative descriptor for a servile oligarchy that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation.

Quotes edit

"America, the Banana Republic" (2008) edit

Christopher Hitchens AMERICA THE BANANA REPUBLIC (OCTOBER 9, 2008)
  • I have heard arguments about whether it was Milton Friedman or Gore Vidal who first came up with this apt summary of a collusion between the overweening state and certain favored monopolistic concerns, whereby the profits can be privatized and the debts conveniently socialized, but another term for the same system would be "banana republic."
  • What are the main principles of a banana republic? A very salient one might be that it has a paper currency which is an international laughingstock: a definition that would immediately qualify today’s United States of America.
  • In a banana republic, the members of the national legislature will be (a) largely for sale and (b) consulted only for ceremonial and rubber-stamp purposes some time after all the truly important decisions have already been made elsewhere.
  • Another feature of a banana republic is the tendency for tribal and cultish elements to flourish at the expense of reason and good order. Did it not seem quite bizarre, as the first vote on the rescue of private greed by public money was being taken, that Congress should adjourn for a religious holiday—Rosh Hashanah—in a country where the majority of Jews are secular? What does this say, incidentally, about the separation of religion and government?
  • In a recent posting on The New York Times's Web site, Paul Krugman said that the United States was now reduced to the status of a banana republic with nuclear weapons. This is a variation on the old joke about the former Soviet Union ("Burkina Faso with rockets"). It’s also wrong: in fact, it’s the reverse of the truth.

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