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Why Isn't the Whole World Wealthy?

This year's first lecture in the Podlich Distinguished Fellow series will be presented by Lee Alston, professor of economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For his Athenaeum talk, Professor Alston will pull together the threads of many of his research interests to focus on the question: "Why Isn't the Whole World Wealthy?" His discussion will emphasize institutions and property rights and cover a broad swath of history and diverse international experiences, from the "Glorious Revolution" in England to today's Latin America and North Korea. Alston will also consider lessons for growth promoting institutions in the United States.

Professor Alston's most recent work includes a June 2003 working paper on "The Erosion of Rule of Law in Argentina, 1930-1947." He also continues to examine the political economy of resource management in Brazil and just retuned in December from a visit to that country. Alston's book publications include two recent volumes on Titles, Conflict, and Land Use: The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier (1999) and Southern Paternalism and the American Welfare: Economics. Politics, and Institutions in the South, 1865-1965 (1999). The first book examines how the absence of well defined property rights has led to economic and social problems, including lost investment and violence. The second book shows how the timing and extent of the America welfare state up until the Civil Rights Acts was influenced by the Southern agricultural elite, who used their political power at the local, state, and national level to maintain a discriminatory legal environment.

Alston received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington in 1978 and has previously taught at Williams College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published numerous professional articles in such journals as the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Economic History and the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization. His wide-ranging interests include economic history, economic development, political economy, environmental economics and new institutional economics.