The Latin American Experience
Edited by Gabriela Dutrénit and Judith Sutz
Chapter 12: The construction of national systems of innovation: a comparative analysis of Argentina and Canada
Over several decades, from 1880 to 1940, many authors compared and similarly assessed Argentina, Australia and Canada. These three new countries were sparsely populated, well endowed with natural resources, received massive waves of European immigrants and organised their commercial and civil life by adopting Western institutions. The three nations grew owing to the export of natural resources and the import of capital and labour. However, as the twentieth century progressed, their differences in performance became more evident: Argentina, a would-be contender for a position among the richest countries, fell behind and joined the backward set of Latin American countries. On the other hand, after the Second World War, Australia and Canada rapidly joined the exclusive club of rich nations. Table 12.1 compares Argentina and Canada. Yet even today, all these countries appear somewhat similar. All have very low birth rates, low population density, a fairly high life expectancy, a high literacy rate, and similar expenditure on education and health care, as a percentage of GDP. Several different and even contrasting explanations have been proposed for the distinct experiences of these countries after the Second World War. Some Argentinean and other Latin American analysts proposed institutional factors. Di Tella and Zymelman (1967) as well as Ferrer (1996) suggested that whereas Canada was fairly protectionist and managed to attract foreign direct investment in manufacturing at an early stage after independence in 1867, Argentina did not impose free trade until the late 1930s.
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