Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Aaron Augsburger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Bean, Ph.D.

Committee Member

G.P. Manish, Ph.D.


Austrian Economics, Central America, Political Economy, Public Choice Theory


Following the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1838, Costa Rica and Honduras were highly underdeveloped politically and economically, while at the same time lacking a strong conservative presence found in the more politically established and economically developed Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador.

However, By the late 20th century Costa Rica established itself as a bastion of democracy in Latin America, supported by a strong middle class. While on the other hand, Honduras would fall victim to a continuous string of coup d’états, with the last being in 2009, by a military that did not exist for the majority of the first half of the 20th century. Ultimately leading to the question, what were the conditions that occurred that led to drastic differences in political development between Costa Rica and Honduras, regardless of similarities following the collapse of the Federal Republic of Central America?

There is a wide array of literature regarding the topic of Central American political development with the intent to answer this question, however it falls short when analyzing the case of Honduras. Now that, its political history is not as violent as that of El Salvador and Guatemala, it did not have the large-scale socialist presence of Nicaragua and did not become the democratic success of Costa Rica. Ultimately, leading to the under theorization of Honduran political development.

Due to this, this work provides a theory guided application of a path dependent explanation to understand the political development of both Costa Rica and Honduras, and the distinction between the two, regardless of their similarities at one point in time. Making the case that distinctions between the distribution of de jure property rights during processes of establishing legitimacy is ultimately able to explain the emergence of the particular interest groups in both countries, that define their respective political development.

With the application of this theory guided approach to a path dependent explanation, it is possible to make the case that during their respective periods of establishing legitimacy, Costa Rica developed a strong middle class with the desire to participate in the political process, leading to the rise of the strong democratic institutions it now has; while in the case of Honduras a political class dependent on foreign military and financial aid and a national military keen on intervening in domestic politics, creating institutions whose stability is dependent on the interests of the military, political class, and United States state and non-state actors.

Ultimately, this work not only helps to overcome the under theorization of Honduran political development and contribute to research on Central American political economy, but provide a theory broad enough to apply to other cases involving political development from a property rights perspective.