A banana republic is a politically unstable country whose economy depends on the export of one product in limited supply, such as bananas or minerals. A banana republic has social classes that are divided by wealth. These include a large, poor working class and a small ruling class made up of the businessmen, politicians, and the military. The ruling class controls and exploits the country's economy.
Characteristics of a Banana Republic
The way the phrase banana republic is used has evolved since it was introduced more than a century ago. It is no longer limited to countries in Central America or the tropics. Key characteristics of a banana republic in the modern world include:
- Widespread government corruption
- Tyrannical government
- Unstable government
- Civil unrest
- Coup attempts/insurgency
- Economic dependency on exporting a limited natural resource (which may or may not be bananas)
- Infrastructure owned/supported by out-of-country interests
- Overall economic dependency on foreign investment or business entities
- Widespread poverty
- Significant stratification of social classes
- Enormous gap between the haves and have nots
- Lack of a middle class
Examples of Banana Republics
In the modern world, whether or not a country could accurately be described as a banana republic government is a matter of opinion. A number of countries have been described as banana republics at some point.
- Costa Rica
A country that at some point might exhibit all of the characteristics of a banana republic could change, which would mean that the term would no longer apply. The fact that someone refers to a country as a banana republic does not mean that the country really is one. Remember that the phrase is a derogatory description rather than an actual type of government.
- White, Richard Alan (1984). The Morass. United States Intervention in Central America. New York: Harper & Row. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-06-091145-4.
- "Big-business Greed Killing the Banana (p. A19)". The Independent, Via the New Zealand Herald. 24 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2012.