Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap Between Latin America and the United States

In This Review

Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap Between Latin America and the United States

By Francis Fukuyama, ed
Oxford University Press, 2008
336 pp. $29.95
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In today's fast-moving world, delaying publication for three years -- these essays were first presented at a seminar in Buenos Aires in 2005 -- risks some disorienting surprises. Today, leading Latin American countries have adopted economic policies markedly superior to those of an imploding United States. But this edited volume is less about comparing U.S. and Latin American performance than it is an exploration of Latin America's frustrations. Of varying originality, rigor, and polish, these essays by senior U.S. and Latin American historians and political scientists (including Tulio Halperin Donghi, Enrique Krauze, Jorge Dominguez, Adam Przeworski, Riordan Roett, and Natalio Botana) are organized around a single question but do not share common methodologies, common linguistic usage (for example, they differ on what is meant by "culture"), or common policy preferences, and disentangling causalities proves a strenuous assignment. The editor Fukuyama's hopeful conclusion, which draws heavily on publications by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, points Latin America in the reasonable direction of stronger institutions, smarter social policies, and less inequality. But Fukuyama does not adequately explain how a still-trailing Latin America can exorcise its demons to attain these ambitious goals.