By Frank H. Hahn

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Finally, the judiciary may play a critical role in the country by acting as a representative for traditionally underrepresented groups in society. The ability of the judiciary to perform its functions depends critically on several factors. It is essential that the judiciary have sufficient resources to perform its functions and have some budgetary independence from the other two branches of government. Second, the system of appointments is critical. If judges, especially at the supreme-court level, can be appointed without sufficient oversight, then the entire legal system may become compromised by short-run political considerations.

The utter lack of property rights one observes in a failed state has obvious consequences on economic activity. Transactions grind to a minimum and output per capita falls to barely subsistence levels. On the other hand, property rights in a high-income country usually are taken completely for granted. As will be the case in many different contexts, Latin America is in something of a middle ground with respect to property rights. The region did not start out well in this regard as the modern history of Latin America began with an enormous theft of property by the colonial powers from the indigenous population of the region.

If the relationship between the two seems strained at times, the numbers above explain at least a part of that strain. Recurring themes in Latin American economic development In the process of explaining economic growth in Latin America, a number of themes keep cropping up. They appear with such regularity that they are just part of the “conventional wisdom” about the economies of Latin€America. Latin America and the world economyâ•… 15 In this case the conventional wisdom has become so because it is essentially correct.

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