In This Review

Democratic Governance in Latin America
Democratic Governance in Latin America
Stanford University Press, 2009, 440 pp

In this collection, some of Latin America's brightest policymakers join with leading social scientists to explain the region's success stories. But the contributors quarrel over whether there exist generally applicable guidelines for progress. The editors (with Jorge Vargas Cullell) mine large databases to dissect successful democratic governance across nine dimensions; not surprisingly, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay score high, Guatemala and Haiti low. A contrary piece by Francisco Rodríguez pokes holes in statistical methods that seek to derive universal truths by manipulating large sets of data from many countries. The volume's most compelling essays are those written by veterans of public service. Now governor of Chile's central bank, José de Gregorio details the policies behind his nation's top-notch performance and is not shy about defending basic economic principles. Another exceptional Chilean practitioner-scholar, Alejandro Foxley, foresees a world of networked innovation nations -- Australia, Finland, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, and, yes, Chile -- in which they all share best practices while each selects its own competitive industry cluster. In a particularly pithy contribution, the Brazilian statesman Fernando Henrique Cardoso reaffirms the role of decisive leadership in altering the paths of history.