This paper questions the popularity of governance frameworks in explaining development failures and proposing new models of development for Pacific states. Such popularity is attributed to how problems are selected and framed (the doomsday scenario of demographic and environmental collapse, weakening of the state, and an upsurge in corruption) but also, and most importantly, to the recent hegemony of neo‐liberal theory in political economy. Taking the MIRAB microstate of Tuvalu as a counterexample, each of those pillars of governance theory is seen to be lacking or to require a more nuanced form of understanding. A brief analysis of how the dominant Protestant church fits into traditional and modern systems of administration illustrates the complexity of local issues. The essay concludes with a discussion of how the neo‐liberal governance orthodoxy lacks the critical insight into power and agency afforded by Foucault's concept of governmentality.