The economics of growth has come a long way since it regained center stage for economists in the mid-1980s. Here for the first time is a series of country studies guided by that research. The thirteen essays, by leading economists, shed light on some of the most important growth puzzles of our time. How did China grow so rapidly despite the absence of full-fledged private property rights? What happened in India after the early 1980s to more than double its growth rate? How did Botswana and Mauritius avoid the problems that other countries in sub-Saharan Africa succumbed to? How did Indonesia manage to grow over three decades despite weak institutions and distorted microeconomic policies and why did it suffer such a collapse after 1997?
What emerges from this collective effort is a deeper understanding of the centrality of institutions. Economies that have performed well over the long term owe their success not to geography or trade, but to institutions that have generated market-oriented incentives, protected property rights, and enabled stability. However, these narratives warn against a cookie-cutter approach to institution building.
The contributors for this work are Daron Acemoglu, Maite Careaga, Gregory Clark, J. Bradford DeLong, Georges de Menil, William Easterly, Ricardo Hausmann, Simon Johnson, Daniel Kaufmann, Massimo Mastruzzi, Ian W. McLean, Lant Pritchett, Yingyi Qian, James A. Robinson, Devesh Roy, Arvind Subramanian, Alan M. Taylor, Jonathan Temple, Barry R. Weingast, Susan Wolcott, and Diego Zavaleta.
This is an attempt to derive broad, strategic lessons from the diverse experience with economic growth in last fifty years. The paper revolves around two key arguments. One is that neoclassical economic analysis is a lot more flexible than its practitioners in the policy domain have generally given it credit. In particular, first–order economic principles–protection of property rights, market–based competition, appropriate incentives, sound money, and so on–do not map into unique policy packages. Reformers have substantial room for creatively packaging these principles into institutional designs that are sensitive to local opportunities and constraints. Successful countries are those that have used this room wisely. The second argument is that igniting economic growth and sustaining it are somewhat different enterprises. The former generally requires a limited range of (often unconventional) reforms that need not overly tax the institutional capacity of the economy. The latter challenge is in many ways harder, as it requires constructing over the longer term a sound institutional underpinning to endow the economy with resilience to shocks and maintain productive dynamism. Ignoring the distinction between these two tasks leaves reformers saddled with impossibly ambitious, undifferentiated, and impractical policy agendas.
We want economic integration to help boost living standards. We want democratic politics so that public policy decisions are made by those that are directly affected by them (or their representatives). And we want self–determination, which comes with the nation–state. This paper argues that we cannot have all three things simultaneously. The political trilemma of the global economy is that the nation–state system, democratic politics, and full economic integration are mutually incompatible. We can have at most two out of the three. It follows that the direction in which we seem to be headed–global markets without global governance–is unsustainable.
We consider a model of policy choice in which appropriate policies depend on a country's own circumstances, but the presence of a successful leader generates an informational externality and results in too little "policy experimentation." Corrupt governments are reined in while honest governments are disciplined inefficiently. Our model yields distinct predictions about the patterns of policy imitation, corruption, and economic performance as a function of a country's location vis–á–vis successful leaders. In particular, it predicts a U–shaped pattern in economic performance as we move away from the leader in the relevant space of characteristics: close neighbors should do very well, distant countries moderately well on average with considerable variance, and intermediate countries worst of all. An empirical test with the experience of post–socialist countries provides supportive results.
The spectacular gap in incomes that separates the world's rich and poor nations is the central economic fact of our time. Average income in Sierra Leone, which is the poorest country in the world for which we have data, is almost 100 times lower than that in Luxembourg, the world's richest country. Nearly two–thirds of the world's population lives in countries where average income is only one–tenth the U.S. level. Since the starting points for all these countries were not so far apart prior to the industrial revolution, these disparities must be attributed almost entirely to differences in long–term growth rates of per–capita income. The world is split sharply between countries that have managed to sustain economic growth over long periods of time and those that have not. How do we make sense of this?
We estimate the respective contributions of institutions, geography, and trade in determining income levels around the world, using recently developed instruments for institutions and trade. Our results indicate that the quality of institutions "trumps" everything else. Once institutions are controlled for, measures of geography have at best weak direct effects on incomes, although they have a strong indirect effect by influencing the quality of institutions. Similarly, once institutions are controlled for, trade is almost always insignificant, and often enters the income equation with the "wrong" (i.e., negative) sign, although trade too has a positive effect on institutional quality. We relate our results to recent literature, and where differences exist, trace their origins to choices on samples, specification, and instrumentation.
Mozambique liberalized its cashew sector in the early 1990s in response to pressure from the World Bank. Opponents of the reform have argued that the policy did little to benefit poor cashew farmers while bankrupting factories in urban areas. Using a welfare–theoretic framework, we analyze the available evidence and provide an accounting of the distributional and efficiency consequences of the reform. We estimate that the direct benefits from reducing restrictions on raw cashew exports were of the order $6.6 million annually, or about 0.14% of Mozambique GDP. However, these benefits were largely offset by the costs of unemployment in the urban areas. The net gain to farmers was probably no greater than $5.3 million, or $5.30 per year for the average cashew-growing household. Inadequate attention to economic structure and to political economy seems to account for these disappointing outcomes.
We analyze two cross–country data sets that contain information on attitudes toward trade as well as a broad range of socio–demographic and other indicators. We find that pro–trade preferences are significantly and robustly correlated with an individual's level of human capital, in the manner predicted by the factor endowments model. Preferences over trade are also correlated with the trade exposure of the sector in which an individual is employed: individuals in non–traded sectors tend to be the most pro–, while individuals in sectors with a revealed comparative disadvantage are the most protectionist. Third, an individual's relative economic status, measured in terms of either relative income within each country or self–expressed social status, has a very strong positive association with pro–trade attitudes. Finally, non–economic determinants, in the form of values, identities, and attachments, play an important role in explaining the variation in preferences over trade. High degrees of neighborhood attachment and nationalism/patriotism are associated with protectionist tendencies, while cosmopolitanism is correlated with pro–trade attitudes. Our framework does a reasonable job of explaining differences across individuals and a fairly good job of explaining differences across countries.
The new agenda of global integration is built on shaky empirical ground and is seriously distorting policy makers? priorities. Making compliance with it the first order of business diverts human resources, administrative capabilities, and political capital away from more urgent development priorities such as education, public health, industrial capacity, and social cohesion. It undermines nascent democratic institutions by removing the choice of development strategy from public debate. World markets are a source of technology and capital; it would be silly for the developing world not to exploit these opportunities. But globalization is not a short cut to development.
Malaysia recovered from the Asian financial crisis swiftly after the imposition of capital controls in September 1998. The fact that Korea and Thailand recovered in parallel has been interpreted as suggesting that capital controls did not play a significant role in facilitating Malaysia?s rebound. However, the financial crisis was deepening in Malaysia in the summer of 1998, while it had significantly eased up in Korea and Thailand. We employ a time–shifted differences–in–differences technique to exploit the differences in the timing of the crises. Compared to IMF programs, we find that the Malaysian policies produced faster economic recovery, smaller declines in employment and real wages, and more rapid turnaround in the stock market.
It is widely accepted, not least in the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO), that the purpose of the world trade regime is to raise living standards all around the world — rather than to maximize trade per se. Increasingly, however, the WTO and multilateral lending agencies have come to view these two goals — promoting development and maximizing trade — as synonymous, to the point where the latter easily substitutes for the former. The net result is a confounding of ends and means. Trade has become the lens through which development is perceived, rather than the other way around.
Imagine a trading regime in which trade rules are determined so as to maximize development potential, particularly that of the poorest nations in the world. Instead of asking, "How do we maximize trade and market access?" negotiators would ask, "How do we enable countries to grow out of poverty?" Would such a regime look different than the one that exists currently?
The answer depends on how one interprets recent economic history and the role that trade openness plays in the course of economic development. The prevailing view in G7 capitals and multilateral lending agencies is that economic growth is dependent upon integration into the global economy. Successful integration in turn requires both enhanced market access in the advanced industrial countries and a range of institutional reforms at home (ranging from legal and administrative reform to safety nets) to render economic openness viable and growth – promoting. This can be ca lled the "enlightened standard view" – enlightened because of its recognition that there is more to integration than simply lowering tariff and non–tariff barriers to trade, and standard because it represents the conventional wisdom.In this conception, the WTO ’s focus on expanding market access and deepening integration through the harmonization of a wide range of "trade–related" practices is precisely what development requires.
This paper presents an alternative account of economic development, one which questions the centrality of trade and trade policy and emphasizes instead the critical role of domestic institutional innovations. It argues that economic growth is rarely sparked by imported blueprints and opening up the economy is hardly ever critical at the outset. Initial reforms instead tend to combine unconventional institutional innovations with some elements from the orthodox recipe. They are country–specific, based on local knowledge and experimentation. They are targeted to domestic investors and tailored to domestic institutional realities.
Ray Vernon was a great intellect, an iconoclast for whom scholarly fashions never held much attraction. That is of course what made him a visionary: his pioneering studies of the multinational enterprise, comparative political economy, and what we today call globalization anticipated the flourishing academic work in these areas by a decade or two. And his intellect and scholarly curiosity were matched by a distinguished career in the real world, spanning both the private and public sectors.
The paper poses an interesting and important question: Have post–1980 "globalizers" performed better than "non-globalizers"? The authors answer the question affirmatively, but only by applying a suitably arbitrary set of selection criteria to their sample of countries.
Whatever the ultimate verdict on that issue, the Malaysian experience with capital controls (not just the 1998 controls, but also the earlier restrictions on inflows in 1994) demonstrate two things: (a) capital controls can be made effective (in the sense of driving a wedge between onshore and offshore interest rates) with minimal corruption and rent-seeking; (b) capital controls on short-term flows can be implemented with minimal disruption to direct foreign investment (i.e., without scaring away the investors that one really cares about). This experience, I think, puts to rest several counter-arguments about controls: that markets can easily evade controls; that controls have to be so heavy-handed that they come with great costs to the real economy; that they are necessarily prone to corruption and rent-seeking; that it is impossible to segment short-term flows from direct foreign investment.
Should governments pursue economic growth first and foremost, or should they focus on poverty reduction? The recent debate on these questions has generated more heat than light, because it has become embroiled in a wider, political debate on globalization and the role of World Bank/IMF conditionality. As an empirical matter, it is clear that growth and poverty reduction go largely hand in hand. The real questions in this debate should be: What are the policies that yield these rewards, and would a poverty focus facilitate their adoption?