Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's the word?

Tim Hartford wonders why the Cameroon is 30 times poorer than the US, when it should be only about 4 times poorer.
We still don’t have a good word to describe what is missing in Cameroon and in poor countries across the world. But we are starting to understand what it is. Some people call it “social capital,” or maybe “trust.” Others call it “the rule of law,” or “institutions.” But these are just labels. The problem is that Cameroon, like other poor countries, is a topsy-turvy place where it’s in most people’s interest to take actions that directly or indirectly damage everyone else. The incentives to create wealth are turned on their heads like the roof of the school library.
Maybe "civilization" is the right word.

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