AMONG THE DIFFERENT authors contributing to this volume, there is a large degree of consensus as to which factors have and have not contributed to the emergence and persistence of the development gap between the United States and Latin America. Some factors, though clearly important, do not suffice when seeking an explanation for the gap, while other causal factors can be considered critical. The key question then becomes: what to do? Although specific policy prescriptions are difficult to formulate for such a large and diverse region as Latin America, the chapters in this volume do identify several areas where improvements are necessary: economic policies, institutions, attention to politics, and what I label smart social policy.
We begin here with consideration of those factors that some observers have pointed to as being crucial, but which we do not see as ultimately significant. The first of these concerns geography, natural resources, disease burdens, and other characteristics of the natural environment that might explain the success or failure of development in different