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One puzzle for me is Latin America. On a priori(?) grounds, it would seem to make about as much sense to include Latin America as part of "the West" as it would be to include US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The former were founded by one group of European settlers, the latter by another group of European settlers.

Russia is a similar puzzle. You could include it in the West, as part of Europe. Or as Asia, but Asia settled by Europeans.

What I'm trying to get at is: to what extent do we categorise countries by "peeking" at the data. If Latin America had grown just like US and Canada, would we have included it as part of "the West"?

I don't have any answers to that puzzle. I expect it depends on what questions we are asking.

Those are good points Nick. Classifying the data is important. I guess when we refer the the "West" we usually mean the more highly developed and richer market economies that predominated in the 20th century. That would exclude Russia and Latin America but would actually also include Japan - which I've put in Asia. Another breakdown of countries would separate out the "Anglosphere" from the West - the highly developed countries that are largely English speaking. However, then we would have to decide what to do with the UK - is it now more European than it used to be or should it still be put with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and maybe South Africa?). Should we then include Spain with Latin America - a "Hispanosphere"? Not sure.

Colonies of the northern European settlers in the wrong regions still descended into basketcases - this includes the odd English-speaking parts of "Latin" America - and colonies of the southern Europeans in the right regions turned out pretty much similar. Macau is not significantly different from Hong Kong, save for being much smaller.

I think there's some endogeneity of classification here too. If Indonesia and Malaysia had turned out as badly as foreign-policy experts thought they would, back in the 1950s, today we'd say it's obviously because they are part of the broad swathe of Muslim states from Timor to Morocco. But they did't, so we draw the line somewhere in the Indian subcontinent instead. The choice of how to classify Asia is pretty driven by their economic performance as-is.

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