- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 11, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195368827
- ISBN-13: 978-0195368826
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap Between Latin America and the United States 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Fukuyama (The End of History) has compiled essays which collectively dispel the myth that "vast cultural difference or the consequences of U.S. domination" are solely responsible for the economic disparity between North and South America. In 1700, North and South America had similar per capita income; today, per capita income in Latin America is 20 percent of U.S. figures and more than one-third of the population lives in poverty, a wealth disparity that many authors finger as leading to frequent political turmoil and a weakened rule of law. Most of the essays pit the "Washington Consensus"-the 1990s effort to globalize-against the region's pesky penchant for electing populists, notably Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Famous for his contention that civilization is moving inexorably toward capitalist liberal democracy, Fukuyama comes nowhere close to making such broad claims about Latin America's evolution here. He dismisses recent comprehensive explanations that take into account geography and technology, but this uneven collection adds little to the argument that Latin America's economic status the exception to the rule, rather than the United States'.
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"This volume constitutes one of the most thorough and lucid attempts to answer the fundamental question of why Latin America has become the West's least developed region. It's a must-read for both policymakers and scholars. Bravo and thanks to the authors."--Ernesto Zedillo, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and former President of Mexico
"This indispensable book ends the debate over why we Latinos are not rich Americans: It's not our culture, religion, intellects, or even the U.S. that keep us behind. It's our defective institutions. So let reform begin. Thanks to Fukuyama and his distinguished colleagues, governments have no more excuses to avoid legal change."--Hernando de Soto, author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
"It is a measure of this book's seriousness that there are no easy recipes in it. Falling Behind makes a valuable contribution to the debate about Latin America."--The Times Literary Supplement
"Provides valuable insights into how both formal and informal institutions have shaped economic and political outcomes in Latin America...this book should be a valuable and timely addition to upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with the economic challenges facing Latin American and Caribbean countries."--Eastern Economic Journal
"A set of historical essays help us to understand that the development gap with the United States emerged in the first two thirds of the nineteenth century as Latin American societies struggled to form coherent nation-states following independence from Spain and Portugal. ... Francis Fukuyama examines the importance of institutions." --Political Science Quarterly
Top customer reviews
I found that some of the arguments were more persuasive than others, especially the time series work that showed much of the loss of relative economic performance occurring during the time when Latin American countries were establishing their governments. That evidence seemed to be the smoking gun that shows that economic development requires stable, effective government.
Of equal interest were the investigations of the factors that don't seem to explain the differences, including religious culture, tropical climate, and disease.
The book is short on prescriptions. But Latin America seems likely to profit from improved government policies for economic development, better educational results, more inclusive two-party politics in democracies, improving security of property rights, making entrepreneurship easier, and avoiding regime changes.
Historical data make it hard to test everything, but I did wonder if geography might not have played a bigger role in falling behind the United States than this book suggests. A lot of the economic development of the U.S. in the early industrial revolution depended on having lots of cotton growing and the raw materials to make steel-based goods that could be inexpensively shipped across the North Atlantic to Europe. Latin America mostly lacked those same resources and access to the European markets at the same time.
I'm sure the debate over what went wrong in Latin America will continue as long as Latin America's prosperity lags behind the United States. It's a subject well worth considering to provide guidance for other developing regions, especially in Africa.