Latin American Economic Development Fall 2010

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Stanley Engerman, one of the foremost economic historians today, cautions against assuming that countries that are rich today must have been destined to become that way. He reminds us that, “the area that became the United States was long considered a rather undesirable location by potential settlers. Most early European commentators on the New World regarded Latin America as a more preferred location than mainland North America north of the Rio Grande, in part because the North American climate was considered undesirable.”

He goes on to note that “England, ultimately the most successful of the European settlers of the New World, came late and was forced to accept lands in mainland North America that were at the time considered to be of only limited value. France, forced to take lands such as Canada, (which was) considered of little value. Richelieu’s Finance Minister was opposed to settling Canada, on the claim that no area north of 40 latitude had been able to produce wealth.”1

While these statements may surprise us, we should remember that Argentina was one of the 10 richest countries in the world in 1900. What happened? Why was Latin America expected to do well while the British North American colonies were considered undesirable? What changed?


Rufino Tamayo, 1973, Perro de Luna

This class will give you the opportunity to delve into the literature on Latin American development. We will tackle some of the big questions in the field, such as: why did Latin America fall behind the US in the 19th century? Why was it so difficult to catch up? How have states tried to foster development and have they been successful? Why has the region been so susceptible to populist politicians and what are the implications of populism for growth? What were the reasons for the debt build-up in the 1970s and the eventual crisis in the 1980s? What kinds of reform were undertaken in the 1990s and 2000s and were they successful? Is the recent rise of the left in the region a sign of reform exhaustion?

More than a survey of Latin American development, this course promises that you will have the opportunity to think critically about these questions in your reading, writing, and class discussions.

By the end of the semester, you will be able to do the following:

~ Speak and write intelligently about the important issues in Latin American economic development in your own words.

~Understand the different strategies that states have undertaken to foster development and be able to explain when they have worked and when they haven’t (and know some of the reasons for the difference).

Ways to fulfill the promise:

Take responsibility for your own learning and help support the learning of others in the class.

Here’s how:

Put the time in.

Keep an open mind.

Make the commitment: your education is a big deal!

Participate: come to class on time and be prepared to discuss the readings.

Listen to your classmate’s viewpoints and engage in lively (but respectful) discussion. If you have to miss a class, remember that you are responsible for finding out what you missed.

The final grade will assess each student’s ability to discuss and evaluate issues in the field of Latin American economic development as well as their ability to defend their arguments on particular debates. To evaluate your progress in reaching these goals, and to provide you with feedback on your learning, we will look at the following items:

* Participation: this means showing up on time, prepared to discuss the readings, with a willingness to engage respectfully in class discussions and debates. (15%)

* Homework: 4 assignments, each worth 10% of your final grade.

* Exams: The midterm and final exam (cumulative) will be worth 20% and 25% of your final grade, respectively.


Rufino Tamayo, 1983, Protesta

My information:

Robin Grier

323 Hester Hall

Tel: 325-0581


Office hours: MW 3:00-4:00 & by appt.

Besides a willingness to work hard and learn a lot, you will also need the following for the class:

Blustein, Paul, 2006, And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out): Wall Street, the IMF, and the Bankrupting of Argentina (Public Affairs).

Teichman, Judith, 2000, The Politics of Freeing Markets in Latin America: Chile, Argentina, and Mexico (The University of North Carolina Press).

Reading packet available at King Kopy

No Distractions: Please do not engage in any activity not related to class during class time. Cell phones and other electronic devices should be turned off and put away before class begins. Students who violate this policy may be asked to leave the class.

Integrity: I strictly enforce academic honesty. You are expected to be honest and ethical at all times in your pursuit of academic goals in accordance with the university’s policy on academic conduct. Please see regarding the university’s policy on plagiarism. If you have a question about a writing assignment, please ask me about it first before you turn it in.

Support for Students: One of the most important skills you can learn in college is how to write effectively. We have an excellent writing center at OU and I encourage you to take advantage of their services to improve your writing. (

1 Stanley Engerman, 2003, Comment on: Tropics, germs and crops: How endowments influence economic development, Journal Of Monetary Economics 50(1): p. 42-43.

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