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For richer and for poorer

Two new books offer contrasting explanations for why some countries fail to develop: one blames culture, the other trade liberalisation. Though both analyses are flawed, neither can be dismissed. Attitudes in poor countries often do need to change, while protectionism can play a role in helping Africa to industrialise

By Paul Collier   June 2007

Over the past two centuries, quite staggering differences in income have opened up between countries. Understanding why this has happened, and what can be done to reverse it, is the most important project in social science. Although the phenomenon is evidently economic, the discipline of economics has not so far provided a compelling account. The resulting vacuum has attracted other approaches, some from the other social sciences and some from non-mainstream economists. Two recent books, Lawrence E Harrison’s The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save it From Itself (OUP) and Erik Reinert’s How Rich Countries…

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