Do Defective Institutions
Explain the Development Gap
between the United States
and Latin America?
ONE OF THE most obvious ways that development in the United States has differed from that of Latin America concerns political institutions. The United States is the world’s oldest continuously existing democracy, the country that in many respects invented modern democracy. While Latin America is, on the whole, more democratic than other parts of the world, including fast-developing Asia, no Latin American country has ever had an uninterrupted history of democratic rule, and the deviations in the region, in terms of authoritarian government, suppression of human rights, civil conflict, and violence, have frequently been severe.1 Democracy and rule of law are ends in themselves, and they are also obviously related to a society’s ability to achieve other objectives like economic growth, social equity,
The author would like to thank Jillian Blake for help in researching this chapter.