Thursday, May 11, 2006

Becker-Posner on Latin America

Becker and Posner comment on Latin's leftward drift. Becker is probably right that the trend won't last but is overoptimistic is his belief that it won't matter. Chavez and Morales will leave their economies weakened and future right wing governments with more work to do which will only increase the painfulness of reform and lay the foundations of the next lurch left. Equally, the Lula phenomenon of left wingers softened by election would seem to be a risky one as it constantly risks being "discovered" by its own supporters.

Weber's work, which Posner spends some time discussing, is an oversimplification but it does seem possible that Catholicism is contributing to the problem. Posner's explanation is quite different to Weber's original thesis but is, perhaps, stronger than he makes out. Italy and Spain may be exceptions as successful Catholic economies but they are hardly the most stable of the European capitalist nations. He skips over the historical explanation of the cultural differences between North and South America, though, which might be more significant. Landes describes how these nations were formed by colonial powers far more interested in their resource endowment than in forming durable nations. While Latin America would appear to have had plenty of time to overcome this historical disadvantage, Eastern Europe has been more dysfunctional more recently, its importance cannot be discounted.

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