September 1, 2002

All We’ve Learnt

Colonial Teachings and Caribbean Underdevelopment
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Read the article at SSRN or Berkeley Electronic Press.

This paper argues that in order to understand West Indian economic underdevelopment, the saliency of the informal institutions that emerged during its colonial period and the effect these institutions have had on the emergence of a local entrepreneurial class can not be discounted. British colonial occupation, I contend, gave rise to two persistent informal institutions that have affected development: a belief in the ability and responsibility of government to direct the economy and pessimism regarding the possibility of entrepreneurial success. Relying on Schumpeter’s discussion of the importance of entrepreneurs to economic development and North’s work on informal institutions, I examine how the poverty of entrepreneurs in the region and the cultures of corruption, privilege and intervention that evolved as a result of the region’s colonial experiences have hampered past efforts at development.