Economic Growth, Inequality and Crony Capitalism: The Case of Brazil, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Economic Growth, Inequality and Crony Capitalism

The Case of Brazil, 1st Edition

By Danilo Rocha Limoeiro


240 pages | 38 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367896515
pub: 2020-07-13
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Researchers in international development have long argued that the high costs of doing business harms prosperity in developing countries, a claim that invites the question of why governments impose these costs and why societies fail to enact reforms reducing them. This book seeks to answer the question by looking at the case of Brazil, a large and highly unequal economy riddled with state-imposed transaction costs. 

By delving into the political dynamics underlying a costly business environment, this book provides the reader with novel insights into crony capitalism and inequality. It argues that the root cause of a costly business environment is the collusion between political actors, bureaucrats and business insiders. Politicians and bureaucrats relish their discretion over rules and policies as a power resource, since they can increase or decrease the costs of doing business faced by firms and sectors. Business insiders collude with government agents to access the loopholes that decrease the cost of doing business, thus gaining a competitive edge over outsiders. This gives the insiders weaker preferences for reforms that could decrease the overall cost of doing business. By pursuing their self-interest, these actors create a low-level equilibrium that perpetuates crony capitalism and inequality, to the detriment of overall prosperity. The book makes its case with a sophisticated combination of formal modelling, quantitative analyses and in-depth case studies of tax policy and of the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors in Brazil. 

Observers have declared the need for reforms that improve the business environment in developing countries for a long time. However, the findings presented in this book suggests they might have underestimated the challenge ahead. Scholars and policy-makers in international development, business politics and political economy will be interested in the innovative perspective of this book.


"That Brazil is notoriously one of the hardest countries in the world to do business is often decried but largely unexplained. Combining a sophisticated theoretical approach with careful case studies of tax policies and the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors, this innovative work shines a spotlight on the political equilibrium that sustains high transaction costs: politicians enjoy leverage over economic actors, who do not collectively resist because well-connected businesses benefit from a regulatory regime that raises the barriers to entry for new entrepreneurs. This book should be of broad interest to students of the political economy of emerging market economies." — Frances Hagopian, Harvard University

"Observers in Brazil have long lamented both the excessive regulation by the public sector and the overweening power of big business in the private sector. This deeply researched book finally puts them together, under sustained scrutiny, to show how they are mutually reinforcing. Far from being a fervent advocate of free markets, big business in fact benefits from, and politically supports, the detailed rules and regulations that give big business a leg up and keep potential competitors out. Scholars of market reform and business power, in Brazil and elsewhere, will want to read this innovative and troubling book." — Ben Ross Schneider, MIT

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables



1 Cronyism, Growth and Inequality

1.1 Ricardo’s predicament and the argument in short

1.2 Contribution: Understanding Ricardo’s predicament

1.3 Roadmap: A central puzzle and its explanation

1.4 Capitalism, Regulation, Left and Right

2 Crony Capitalism: Actors, Continuity and Change

2.1 Crony capitalism in Brazil

2.2 Business

2.3 Politicians

2.4 Bureaucrats

2.5 Formalizing the argument

2.6 Change

3 Industry Leaders and Political Engagement

3.1 Are industry leaders more politically engaged?

3.2 Testing the hypothesis in Brazil

3.3 Estimation

3.4 Conclusion

4 The Politics of Taxation in Brazil

4.1 Disjoint layering and the tax system.

4.2 Subnational taxation and tax breaks

4.3 Tariff policies

5 Pharmaceuticals

5.1 Functions and distortions of bureaucracies

5.2 The pharmaceutical industry in Brazil

5.3 The cases of S˜ao Paulo and Goias

5.4 Anvisa: Welcomed but unloved

5.5 Why not fight back against regulatory distortion?

6 Agriculture

6.1 Blurred lines

6.2 The agricultural boom in Brazil

6.3 Demand for Pareto optimal reforms

6.4 The bootstrap sector? 311

6.5 The Political Clout of Agribusiness

7 Conclusion



About the Author

Danilo Rocha Limoeiro is the co-founder and CEO of, a company dedicated to help developing countries decrease bureaucracy through technological innovation.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Modern World Economy

In an increasingly interdependent world, many of the most important issues are driven by economic forces. This series applies newly developed economic techniques to some of the most pressing contemporary problems. The aim of the series is to demonstrate the relevance of modern economic theory to the modern world economy, and to provide key reading for researchers and policy-makers.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Comparative
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / International / Economics
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Theory
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Agribusiness
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology