It may be no coincidence that those countries that grew most rapidly in the late
twentieth century—including South Korea, China, and, of late, India—were
relatively developed civilizations when Western Europe began its overseas
expansion five centuries ago. In this article the authors explore the literature
showing that institutions matter to growth, then examine new evidence that the
‘social capability’ to achieve growth is a function of capacities that go beyond the
formal education system. Remarkably, a long history of nationhood at the time of
Columbus means better odds of growth today.