The Political Matrix of Natural Disasters: Africa and Latin America

August 1984 (VOL. 2, NO. 2)

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Scarce resources often force governments to make difficult choices in the authoritative allocation of values. Such value decisions are particularly acute in developing countries, where need and demand far exceed government wherewithal. Major structural and political factors, which help explain the response adequacy of developed and developing nations, shed little light on the comparative performance of developing regimes alone. To aid in understanding these latter differences, this article identifies three patterns of authoritative allocation found among the developing countries of Africa and Latin America: ethnic pluralism, corporatism, and egalitarianism. These patterns, in turn, help account for observed variation within developing countries of average number killed, average amount of damage, and average number of victims within the disaster categories of earthquake, flood, epidemic, drought, and storm.