Over at Slate, Tim Harford has an interesting discussion on a rather intriguing economic question: Why Are Poor Countries Poor?

The answer is less obvious than you might imagine. The usual explanation goes something like this: 

"One very plausible account of why at least some poor countries are poor is that there is no smooth progression from where they are to where they would be when rich. For instance, to move from drilling oil to making silicon chips might require simultaneous investments in education, transport infrastructure, electricity, and many other things. The gap may be too far for private enterprise to bridge without some sort of coordinating effort from government—a "big push."

However, a new line of thinking has bled over into Economics from Physics. It turns out that:

"Rich countries have larger, more diversified economies, and so produce lots of products—especially products close to the densely connected heart of the network. East Asian economies look very different, with a big cluster around textiles and another around electronics manufacturing, and—contrary to the hype—not much activity in the products produced by rich countries. African countries tend to produce a few products with no great similarity to any others."

Anyway, by thinking about this in network terms, the physicists have created a map (infoporn!) of the relationships between different products in an abstract economic space:

Png3000x3536labelslegends

resources

Pretty fascinating thinking that has ramifications for what sort of might want to emphasize to poorer countries . . .


>

Sources:
The Product Space and the Wealth of Nations   
http://www.nd.edu/~networks/productspace/index.htm

Milton Friedman, Meet Richard Feynman
How physics can explain why some countries are rich and others are poor
Tim Harford
Slate, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007, at 7:07 AM
http://www.slate.com/id/2171898 

Category: Commodities, Economy, Politics, Science

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

55 Responses to “Why Are Poor Countries Poor?”

  1. Pool Shark says:

    One of the fundamental reasons why most poor countries are poor is that they have unstable governments which are either unable or unwilling to protect private property rights.

    Nobody would be willing to innovate/produce/risk capital when what they produce can simply be confiscated by fellow citizens (or even the government itself).

    Africa is a varitable cornucopia of natural resources, yet it produces very little due to political instability.

    Zimbabwe was actually making a bit of progress until Mr. Mugabe decided to start seizing private assets from the few productive farmers (mostly white westerners). Now he is discovering that nobody wants to play in a game where he can simply declare himself the winner and abscond with all the money.

  2. tw says:

    Barry.

    Hernando de Soto argued that wealth is inherently defined by the presence and strengths of property rights.(assuming that you have not read the book) The argument is compelling, utilizing the development of US property rights and contrasting that with various third world countries. A well diversified economy at it’s very core comes down to property rights to a large extent; and we have Mugubes policies in Africa to assist in providing a contrast to confirm that view.

  3. Karl Smith says:

    This line of questioning I think should always begin with:

    Why are any countries rich?

    A maintained assumption in a lot of work outside of economics is that the progression towards wealth was natural or steady. Neither of these things is true.

    There is a clear, sharp breakpoint in the economic history of the world that begin in England in the 1700s.

    The real question is why did it happen and how did it spread.

    Right now most “rich countries” are rich because they are culturally or geographically close to Great Britain. There are a few outliers in the East Asian Tigers, but even there the post war Anglophilic governments explain a lot.

    So what is this Britishness that produces growth. Is it parliaments? An independent judiciary? Banking laws? Simple Property Rights? Free Trade?

  4. philip says:

    Funny, the first two comments got me thinking. Lately I have been scared to invest because of drastic swings that will come when the inevitable goverment intervention happens. Capricious governments interfering with the rules of trading are definitely a reason that business can’t thrive in poor and corrupt countries.

  5. ari5000 says:

    Why don’t these retarded countries just borrow $9 trillion and buy themselves everything they need?

    Bunch of morons. That’s why we’re so damn rich up in here.

  6. http://www.physorg.com (http://www.physorg.com/news107595499.html) had this image and a short piece back on the 29th that I tried to send along but your mail server has been complaining saying that my host has no DNS record.

    Glad to see you picked up the image none the less as I know how you like the info-porn.

  7. KP says:

    They are poor because they are savers.

  8. Pool Shark says:

    Karl Smith,

    I was about to use England as an excellent example of how aggressively-enforced private property rights foster the production and accumulation of wealth.

    In common-law England, all felonies were punishable by ‘death’ and ‘forfeiture’ (i.e., the convicted criminal forfeit both his life and all his property to the crown).

    Simple theft (i.e., ‘larceny’) was a felony unless the loss was less than 12-pence; in which case it was merely ‘petit larceny’ (which was punishable merely by ‘forfeiture’ and ‘whipping’).

    Therefore, ANY theft of over 12-pence was a capital offense.

    Given the rigorous enforcement of its laws, there is no wonder that English citizens could feel secure in their homes, businesses and personal property. A shop-keeper, for instance, could feel assured that his investment in his premises and stock would be safe from criminals at the cost of the taxes he paid to the crown.

    A little off-topic, but I am convinced (given my line of work) that a main cause of the increasing lawlessness we now see in America is a disregard of the laws brought on by the general consensus that there is little to be feared in the way of punishment by those caught in committing property crimes.

    For instance, in Los Angeles County, defendants who are convicted of felony welfare fraud, (except in very rare cases) are placed on probation and made to pay back the money; NO jail time!

    So, if you are caught stealing money, the punishment is to pay it back (without interest). How much of a disincentive is that?

  9. mhm says:

    Three things must work together to promote development: 1)stable environment to protect long term investment, 2)a fair dispute resolution system and 3)reasonably cheap credit for consumers.

  10. David says:

    Pool Shark, does the existence of harsh laws in defense of property in common-law England necessarily equate to “rigorous enforcement” of said laws?

  11. Pool Shark says:

    David,

    In the case of England between the reigns of Henry VIII and George III, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

  12. Black swan says:

    Wydarzenia i linki

    Zaczęło dziać się tyle, że nie mam szans ani komptencji aby wszystko skomentować. Zatem parę linków do

  13. Mike G. says:

    In this case, I think a picture’s worth a thousand words, because that’s probably how many words it would really take to give the real story and make you forget the pretty (inaccurate) picture :)

    There are obviously many causes, and a country has to get many things right to be prosperous and have a largely prosperous society. And the answer may differ depending on what you call “poor”. But when I think of “destitute” the answers seem pretty obvious. Take Africa, or example (please!). They are awash in natural resources, and yet have some of the most God-forsaken people on the planet and have for decades. Why?

    Even if they were too stupid to dig gold, diamonds, emeralds, oils etc. out of the ground (and they aren’t), the West is there to teach them. No. They are destitute because almost always there is some dominant thug screwing everyone over (by force), totally upsetting the natural laws of economics all the while. There is chaos throughout the land and although anything but optimal, the only real commerce going on is the work for the thug. I don’t care if it is Idi Amin or Mugabe or the Janjaweed or Kim Jong Il (to pick another country) or Castro or any given politburo, something interferes with “normal” commerce and hence normal societal development and prosperousness and THAT is usually why they are poor. In short, “The Man” is keeping them down! Physics shmisics. Nice diagram though! :)

  14. Mike G. says:

    In this case, I think a picture’s worth a thousand words, because that’s probably how many words it would really take to give the real story and make you forget the pretty (inaccurate) picture :)

    There are obviously many causes, and a country has to get many things right to be prosperous and have a largely prosperous society. And the answer may differ depending on what you call “poor”. But when I think of “destitute” the answers seem pretty obvious. Take Africa, or example (please!). They are awash in natural resources, and yet have some of the most God-forsaken people on the planet and have for decades. Why?

    Even if they were too stupid to dig gold, diamonds, emeralds, oils etc. out of the ground (and they aren’t), the West is there to teach them. No. They are destitute because almost always there is some dominant thug screwing everyone over (by force), totally upsetting the natural laws of economics all the while. There is chaos throughout the land and although anything but optimal, the only real commerce going on is the work for the thug. I don’t care if it is Idi Amin or Mugabe or the Janjaweed or Kim Jong Il (to pick another country) or Castro or any given politburo, something interferes with “normal” commerce and hence normal societal development and prosperousness and THAT is usually why they are poor. In short, “The Man” is keeping them down! Physics shmisics. Nice diagram though! :)

  15. Elaine Meinel Supkis says:

    The ‘dominant thug’ in Africa was the European and American empires. They also enslaved or destroyed India and China 100 years ago. Not to mention, stealing absolutely everything in North and South America.

    Any discussion of rich and poor countries that leaves out 1,000 years of imperialist history is pure garbage.

  16. adam says:

    Pretty bad explanations, except the last one of course.

    Read Guns, Germs, and Steel.

  17. Mike M says:

    This is utter nonsense! Poor countries are poor because they have little private ownership. Hong Kong has little natural resources yet is a relatively rich country. Large, socialistic governments make all citizens poorer.

  18. mhm says:

    Blame the imperialists all you want, but that is also garbage.

    Why 1000 years? There were empires before and Europe (or its parts) broke free of it, and went on to dominate others.

    To keep the focus in Europe, WWII did more damage than you can blame on a 1500′s empire. But it managed to rise again in a few decades. Why/How? Could it be done again today?

    I’m not defending the imperialism, but to blame underdevelopment of a country on a generic empire of old is almost a straw man argument.

  19. anderl says:

    adam has it spot on. GGS explains it perfectly. For a summary it has to do with available resources to progress civilization in that area of the world. Richer countries have developed faster due to a diverse amount of natural resource in their region that vaulted them ahead in technology versus their less lucky counterparts. Once technology advanced to levels where energy was a major resource it was all to easy to just secure it from their poorer counterparts.

    On an economic level its supply and demand vs diversity of supply. One an island with only one resource the one who controls that resource is king. He can regulate the resource, ration it, and gain favor with it. He can sue it for leverage, and manipulate the other islanders.

    However if the island had not 1 but 12 resources then it is much more difficult for a single person to secure and control all of them. Other residents may secure some of those resource. You have a community where there are a small group of power brokers that have to deal and trade with each other in order to maintain the society. When the cost of gaining pigs from one power broker is too high then a resident may find that bananas may be more acceptable because the residents value it less. The Pig broker now looses some of his power.

    The middle east is an example of this. Even in this modern age and the wealth of some of those countries why are the citizens still poor. Because one of the single most powerful resource in the world is controlled by a select few power brokers than are in collusion. The residents of their countries have very few alternatives. Isolated regions of China and India are in the same boat. Their distance from higher civilization prevents them from seeking alternative resource from other brokers. They are forced to use their local ones.

    Diversity in Supply and Demand by Value.

  20. Pool Shark says:

    EMS,

    Isn’t it interesting that most of the countries comprising the former British empire are among the most prosperous of emerging economies (i.e., United States, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong…)

    Whereas most colonies of other European nations (especially France and Spain), have not faired so well?

    Third world countries which were either colonized by non-British nations or never colonized at all, remain among the poorest countries in the world.

  21. don says:

    Oh, I get it. Poor countries are poor because they don’t produce that much.

    Talk about circular reasoning.

  22. MarkJohnsonLewis says:

    There’s a lot above to respond to. But I would like to provide a different kind of example. Botswana. This is a unique example where a country was able to secure a large chunk of the profits from natural resources (in this case mostly diamonds, but also copper and coal to name a few), and a significant chunk of that money was reinvested in the economic development of the country. Where things got complicated was when they attempted to compete with South Africa, and they have been repeatedly shut down. And these were initiatives that could have brought significant industry into the country. So while the will, the plan, and the funds were available for significant economic development, Botswana was hampered by other geopolitical realities (in particular being a land-locked country whose trade routes, i.e., access to ocean-going shipping, are controlled by another not-so-friendly country). For more details, take a look at “Very Brave or Very Foolish”, the memoirs of former president Quett Masire. Full disclosure, I’m related to the editor of the book.

  23. MarkJohnsonLewis says:

    Pool Shark, I’d hardly call South Africa a British colony – the history there doesn’t quite bear that out. However, Zimbabwe WAS a British colony. While Brazil was a Portuguese colony. So I’m not sure I’m seeing your point. Furthermore, how many “developing” (i.e., poor) countries are there out there that weren’t colonized? To use the example of Africa, that entire continent was sliced up according to the whims of the Europeans.

  24. adam says:

    Pool Shark is kind of right. Except for the part in why England became rich. Property Rights and the sort is ancillary to technological progresses and the industrial revolution. In other words, property rights (as we know them now) are the effect of technological progress, not the cause.

    We are now in a transitional phase. We call it globalization. What will we transition to though?

    Oh yeah the most important resource of them all is energy. Richard Heinberg’s The Party is Over is a good book to start on that subject.

  25. hidebound says:

    One significant factor has been the loss of faith in the local culture (the nearest thing in most poor countries to the concept of the nation state) by the elites. The elites get rich, they move out — businesses are run as cash cows to support the “international” lifestyle.

  26. hidebound says:

    One significant factor has been the loss of faith in the local culture (the nearest thing in most poor countries to the concept of the nation state) by the elites. The elites get rich, they move out — businesses are run as cash cows to support the “international” lifestyle.

  27. I would much rather want to know if any of those “poor” people are happy and, if so, why would they want to be “rich?” Part of the problem with the world is that “success” is defined in monetary terms…

    “If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.” Epicurus

    http://financialphilosopher.typepad.com/thefinancialphilosopher/2007/07/can-money-reall.html

    Cheers…

  28. Pool Shark says:

    adam,

    The basis for virtually all western civilization’s real property rights (including the dreaded ‘rule against perpetuities’) was English common law which was pretty much in place by the time of Henry VIII’s death (in 1547).

    The growth of the British empire and the creation of vast wealth (enabled by the industrial revolution) didn’t occur until much later.

    You have your chicken and egg switched; property rights in England were in place long before the country became ‘rich.’

  29. adam says:

    Technological progress was happening during the 1500s. Didn’t Columbus just sail the Ocean Blue a century before. Look at the milk and honey that was just discovered by the Europeans.

  30. Josh says:

    Not my original idea, I read somewhere and can’t remember the source.

    Another potential problem are countries that are land locked. It is more costly (ie. tariffs, quotas, share of revenues and/or profits, bribes) and can also potentially be more cumbersome to export and import products because they have to move them through another country. Then it is also more unlikely for them to have a navy to protect their cargo. This however is obviously less of a problem today then a few hundered years ago.

  31. tom b says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_the_Great_Powers

    We could be in trouble down the road…

    As for right now– the world is “winner take all”– you DON’T want to be a thrid world nation with lots of oil; that’s a recipe for exploitation (Sudan; Nigeria, Iraq)

  32. donna says:

    Rich countries are rich because they invade poor countries and turn the poor countries’ wealth into the rich countries’ wealth.

    Duh.

  33. Mike G. says:

    I disagree about the US and UK being the thugs in the sense that for the most part the countries they occupied were set up for a better path forward by putting in place a rule of law, a fair market economy, an educational system, etc., etc. Not that they necessarily found themselves occupying those countries out of some act of compassion, but the circumstances were what they were.

    The UK, US and the West in general were/are at the very least willing supporters of all too many dictatorial thugs though. Much as I would like that not to be so at one level, they deal with the leaders, good or bad. Frankly it is asking too much to not buy oil from the Saudis or natural resources from Africa or lead-laced toys from China because we may not like their leaders, system of government or lack of human rights. You play the cards you are dealt.

    The lack of property rights etc. discussed above is an extension of what I was mentioning before. The poor countries of TODAY are generally so because some force is keeping them from evolving to a level of taking part in the global economy. One place to still fault the West vs the 3rd world, however, is the subsidies of the West of certain goods that are keeping the 3rd world out of certain markets. That much I’ll grant you.

    (Sorry for posting twice earlier but I think the preview mode actually posts sometimes).

  34. Short Man says:

    Obviously there were a multitude of factors at work rather but one that hasn’t been explicitly cited here yet is the Protestant Reformation (which also started in the 1500′s) and led to reduced church influence over the populous and the eventual separation of church and state in practical terms.

    Nations/cultures are much less likely to flourish economically in a state where the church exerts active control/power over the populous. Church controlled states allocate resources poorly, have high rates of corruption, low productivity and are less open to accepting new ideas and technology. This is definitely a factor in explaining the relatively poor performance of former Spanish colonies from former British colonies. The Catholic church has a vested interest in ensuring the people remain dependent on the church.

  35. Mike G. says:

    Hmm. The Catholic church, forerunner to the democrat party. I never thought of it quite that way before!

  36. tech-tester says:

    More poor countries are located closer to the equatorial line. Maybe the sun has something to do with it. Why work hard when it’s hot and natural resources are abound nearby. Plus you can’t beat that siesta and sex-hour ;)

  37. I definitely agree that countries with unstable governments have the highest change of being poor. That’s a great point made by Mike though.. I had never really thought about it, but it’s very true!

    -Terra
    http://www.BetterForBusiness.com

  38. dave says:

    There are so many rich corporations and
    individuals, and poor countries that it is
    hard to see the rich countries, much less
    define what made them rich. Homogeneous
    and intelligent population is a common
    factor? Norway, Switzerland…Russia’s been
    on a role lately…USA’s multi-trillion $$$ unfunded liability, over-exploited resources
    and gun culture, sad to say does not seem so rich anymore. More like comfortably dumb.

  39. dave says:

    There are so many rich corporations and
    individuals, and poor countries that it is
    hard to see the rich countries, much less
    define what made them rich. Homogeneous
    and intelligent population is a common
    factor? Norway, Switzerland…Russia’s been
    on a role lately…USA’s multi-trillion $$$ unfunded liability, over-exploited resources
    and gun culture, sad to say does not seem so rich anymore. More like comfortably dumb.

  40. The Dirty Mac says:

    Included in the “1000 years of imperialist history” is the colonization of what are now the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Greenspan notwithstanding, those countries seem to have done OK. You can include South Korea here too although I suspect that most of those taking the “western imperialism” position would not put Imperial Japan on the same exploitative level as the US and UK.

    If exploitation and theft have accounted for prosperity/poverty, then how does one account for the massive creation of wealth since 1600 or 1750 or 1900, virtually all emanating from economies with systems of property rights? It takes a whole lot of exploitation to have me sitting here in front of a Dell computer when my great grandparents did not have a TV set.

    If one grants that South Korea is more prosperous than North Korea, how did this happen?

  41. Rock says:

    I just moved from the USA to the Philippines, perhaps I can share my thoughts.

    1> Top-down or Bottom-up. Will a strong government make a country rich? Let’s look at Marxist countries for that answer. It looks like Bottom-up
    is the answer. Let the free market go and
    reign it in when necessary by good government, with only taxes necessary to provide education and infrastructure.

    2> Protestant work ethic. It goes by other names as well, Japanese work ethic.
    Basically, the country has to have a moral, strong work ethic.

    3> Command of Time. So many cultures have a different attitude about time. The correct work ethic will live and die by the clock (sorry, stole that from
    Cast Away). Without setting proper deadlines, everything slips.

    4> A respected government. Corruption and bureaucracy really get in the way of progress.

    5> Educated people.

  42. Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! says:

    Folks, you can’t extol the values of private property rights by citing Zimbabwe and North Korea as examples of what happens without it (much less use them to base arguments for flat and regressive tax rates — like I’ll bet some of those books do). The absence of private property rights is about the tenth thing wrong with those countries. Also, you’ll have to deal with the counterexample of Cuba. Compare Cuba to a nearby Caribbean capitalist nation. Does that “confirm” we should take away most private property rights?

    Here was my list of factors:
    - no war or no war on soil
    - government stability (no coup d’états)
    - abundance of arable land per capita
    - abundance of potable water, year-round
    - cold seasons to discourage year-round pests (and disease)
    - no serious religious divisions
    - no serious racial divisions
    - powerful foreign allies, smart diplomacy
    - free speech
    - fair campaigns and elections
    - separation of church and state
    - balanced budget (not borrowing huge sums from IMF, foreign investors)
    - private property rights

    Thanks to the other posts, I took a look at “Guns, Germs and Steel” on Wikipedia. I’m inclined to agree with what’s said there.

  43. The Dirty Mac says:

    You have to cite North Korea because it is a near ideal test case. Among the extremely poor countries, North Korea alone borders a prosperous nation with an essentially identical racial composition, language, geography, agricultural conditions, culture, and history (to 1945). All of the control factors are there to evaluate comparative political/economic systems.

    Cuba is of course well known for its superlative health care. And no wonder, since it produces scores of people who are adequately physically fit to attempt to swim or row ninety miles. However, most of the “capitalist” states in the Caribbean have terrible records with respect to property rights. A ruling elite taking what it wants when it wants is not the economic system envisioned by Adam Smith

    “- no war or no war on soil…- abundance of arable land per capita”

    Sayonara Japan!

  44. Greg0658 says:

    interesting topic – precursor discussion to:

    1. Create a North American Union and the Amero?
    2. Merge with the EU?
    3. Merge with China?
    4. Stay the course?

    : – )

  45. RugbyD says:

    The graphic is incomplete without a depiction of the illicit drug trade. Would be a very interesting addition.

  46. Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! says:

    >> You have to cite North Korea because it is a near ideal test case.

    Yes, provided you ignore trade sanctions and a leader who’s nuts.

    >> >> “- no war or no war on soil…- abundance of arable land per capita”

    >> Sayonara Japan!

    And the other factors? How’s Japan do on those?

  47. Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! Coup d'etat!! says:

    >> Cuba is of course well known for its superlative health care. And no wonder, since it produces scores of people who are adequately physically fit to attempt to swim or row ninety miles.

    Plenty of other countries’ emigres can build up a good stamina walking to this country, instead of swimming. But, do they have great healthcare and literacy back home?

    >> However, most of the “capitalist” states in the Caribbean have terrible records with respect to property rights. A ruling elite taking what it wants when it wants is not the economic system envisioned by Adam Smith

    Many have better records than Cuba’s. No?

  48. Northern Observer says:

    The paradox is that countries with strong property rights also have strong governments. The most important thing is clean government, non-corrupt. Still a somewhat mysterious thing. Why did english ans sweedish common law produce this, while French and Italian law did not? Max Webber linked it back to Protestantism and the Parliamentary system of government.

  49. alex norman says:

    Trust. The basis of all successful human interaction, from love to commerce. A social contract, rule of law, property rights, all things necessary for economic growth, spring from a society based on trust.

    Education. The wellspring of civilization, without which there would be no sharing of knowledge, no innovation, no technology, and no economic growth.

    Trust & Education. Societies that are not based on trust and do not educate their people will always be poor.

    Natural Resources can be just as much of a disadvantage as an advantage, especially in the long run. Look at Egypt. The most impressive civilization in the world for thousands of years. But because it was so dependent on the Nile river, it failed to adapt, to innovate. And that is why it ultimately passed from the Earth.

    Today, there is only one country in the world that is an oil-rich energy exporter that is also an open democracy, with trust and rule of law. Norway.

  50. Mike G. says:

    Natural Resources can be just as much of a disadvantage as an advantage

    Oh, I agree! Even in recent history, was being hip deep in diamonds a blessing or a curse to Angola and Sierra Leone? Think of the violence (by children on children especially) to coerce people into mining diamonds to support those wars. Look at most of the oil countries in the middle east. Other than oil, they have almost nothing that the West wants (well, besides maybe dates). They make nothing. Their economies rely almost solely on the oil trade. Iran doesn’t even refine enough gasoline for itself! They ration gasoline now!

    However, that situation isn’t really the same as the original question that kicked off this comment thread. Having a one product economy is probably more of a “path of least resistance”. Why take up hog farming when anything in the oil industry is guaranteed work and pays better?

  51. Another interesting post on BigPicture

    A question that has been raised numerous times in the media, but never successfully answered is: Why do poor countries stay poor?
    Is it inept government practices, bad capital asset allocation or just plain bad luck?
    Tim Harford at Slate, has an intere…

  52. Marisa says:

    I was fascinated by this concept of poor nations because I just returned from a trip to Africa (Nigeria).

    It’s incomprehensible to most people to define what poverty, despair and squalor look like in a place like Nigeria.

    When you have clean running water, elecricity, safety, a stable government, and free speech you take it for granted and it becomes like air and the act of breathing–free and involuntary. Imagine a world where these things are not available and you have poverty.

    The reasons are complex but narrowed down I believe it’s political corruption at the core.

  53. Hmm. Has anyone here considered the possibility that poor countries are poor because rich countries stole their resources, enslaved their populations, and broke all their functioning institutions, though a process called “colonialization”? (Also known as “imperalism.”)

    And that this might also have something to do with why rich countries are rich?

    It’s just a theory. A wild notion too marginal to make it into mainstream discourse, I know, but it does match the data. The poorest countries are those that were most heavily imperialized, and the richest are those that had empires.

  54. KS says:

    >>Today, there is only one country in the world that is an oil-rich energy exporter that is also an open democracy, with trust and rule of law. Norway.

    And Canada.

  55. Berlin says:

    Mike M. you’re being ignorant. While the old empires are long gone, the effects of their abuse have been passed down for generations.

    Case study: Priests in-charged of small towns in Spanish colonies forced local teachers to flog their students in front of the class for punishment ..reasons may include coming late to class or even being a slow learner.

    Teachers began to notice that a child who’s constantly beaten and humiliated in front of the class would tattle to get even. Smirks began to show on their faces when a classmates is being flogged. Teachers had no choice but to flog or get flogged themselves by the soldiers.

    The cycle of hostility started in classrooms stayed with these kids as they got older.

    If they hate each other, the empire remains safe, a classic Machiavellian tactic known throughout the old world as “divide and conquer.”

    Ever heard the saying, “Indians hate each other or Filipinos hate each other?”

    It might be difficult for you to imagine that a simple flogging of millions of kids over a period of 400 years can change the psychological make-up of an entire culture.

    Sadly, it’s true in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And don’t forget the American Indians.