What Makes Poor Countries Poor?
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What Makes Poor Countries Poor?

Institutional Determinants of Development

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado

This important book focuses on the idea that institutions matter for development, asking what lessons we have learned from past reform efforts, and what role lawyers can play in this field.
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Chapter 9: Conclusion: In Search of Knowledge

Michael J. Trebilcock and Mariana Mota Prado


INTRODUCTION This book has sought to provide a concise introductory survey of the current state of academic knowledge about development, with a special focus on the ways in which development relates to institutions. As we conclude this task, the reader may be tempted to ask one of the most important questions faced by those concerned with development today: where does one start, if one wants to contribute further to the global discourse about institutional solutions to development problems? In the first chapter we surveyed a number of theories of development, showing how each of them ascribes development to a different cause (the economy, geography, culture or a country’s institutional arrangements). Despite their differences, all these theories share the belief that one can find a common set of factors that will determine a country’s development prospects. There are, however, scholars who refuse to engage in such an exercise, rejecting the idea that there can be a single determinant of development and being sceptical as to the possibility of developing a ‘universal theory’ of development. In the view of these scholars, a country’s fate will be determined by a series of factors that are quite unique and particular to that country. For these authors, the search for a general theory of development is futile: we should instead be trying to discuss separately the particular circumstances of, for example, Brazil, China and the Sudan.1 This divergence of views regarding the existence of a ‘universal theory’ of development can also be found in microcosm...

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