To those economists who greatly enjoyed Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel but were made a tad uneasy by the geographical determinism, Ross Levine's fine survey article, "Law, Endowments and Property Rights" (Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer, 2005), hits the spot.
Levine reminds readers that there is accumulating evidence for a "law view" as well as an "endowments view" for robust property rights (and prosperity). He concludes that, "[t]he law and endowment views offer compelling theories of how legal heritage and natural resource endowments shape property rights today and how each view provides empirical support. I see no reason to reject either explanation." (p. 83)