Dani Rodrik
Photo credit: Martha Stewart

Dani Rodrik is an economist whose research covers globalization, economic growth and development, and political economy.

He is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He rejoined the Kennedy School faculty in July 2015 after two years at the Institute for Advanced Study as the Albert O. Hirschman Professor in the School of Social Science.

Professor Rodrik's most recent book is Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton, 2015).

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Recent Books

Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of The Dismal Science
Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of The Dismal Science. New York: W.W. Norton; 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A leading economist trains a lens on his own discipline to uncover when it fails and when it works.

In the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, economic science seems anything but. In this sharp, masterfully argued book, Dani Rodrik, a leading critic from within the science, renders a surprisingly upbeat judgment on economics. Sifting through the failings of the discipline, he homes in on its greatest strength: its many—and often contradictory—explanatory frameworks.

Drawing on the history of the field and his deep experience as a practitioner, Rodrik insists that economic activity defies universal laws. But when economists embrace their expertise as a set of tools, not as a grand unified theory, they can improve the world. From successful antipoverty programs in Mexico to growth strategies in Africa and intelligent remedies for domestic inequality, Rodrik highlights the profound positive influence of economics properly applied.

At once a forceful critique and a defense of the discipline, Economics Rules charts a path toward a more humble but more effective science.

The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy
The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy. New York and London: W.W. Norton; 2011 pp. 368. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Surveying three centuries of economic history, a Harvard professor argues for a leaner global system that puts national democracies front and center.  From the mercantile monopolies of seventeenth-century empires to the modern-day authority of the WTO, IMF, and World Bank, the nations of the world have struggled to effectively harness globalization's promise. The economic narratives that underpinned these eras—the gold standard, the Bretton Woods regime, the "Washington Consensus"—brought great success and great failure. In this eloquent challenge to the reigning wisdom on globalization, Dani Rodrik offers a new narrative, one that embraces an ineluctable tension: we cannot simultaneously pursue democracy, national self-determination, and economic globalization. When the social arrangements of democracies inevitably clash with the international demands of globalization, national priorities should take precedence. Combining history with insight, humor with good-natured critique, Rodrik's case for a customizable globalization supported by a light frame of international rules shows the way to a balanced prosperity as we confront today's global challenges in trade, finance, and labor markets.

Recent Research

Rodrik D, Mukand S. The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy. 2017.Abstract

We distinguish between three sets of rights – property rights, political rights, and civil rights – and provide a taxonomy of political regimes. The distinctive nature of liberal democracy is that it protects civil rights (equality before the law for minorities) in addition to the other two. When democratic transitions are the product of a settlement between the elite (who care mostly about property rights) and the majority (who care mostly about political rights), they generically fail to produce liberal democracy. This is because the minority has neither the resources nor the numbers to make a contribution to the settlement. We develop a formal model to sharpen the contrast between electoral and liberal democracies and highlight circumstances under which liberal democracy can emerge. We show that liberal democracy requires quite special circumstances: mild levels of income inequality as well as weak identity cleavages. We provide some evidence consistent with this result, and also present a new classification of countries as electoral or liberal democracies.

Revised, March 2017

Is Global Equality the Enemy of National Equality?. 2017.Abstract

The bulk of global inequality is accounted for by income differences across countries rather than within countries. Expanding trade with China has aggravated inequality in some advanced economies, while ameliorating global inequality. But the “China shock” is receding and other low-income countries are unlikely to replicate China’s export-oriented industrialization experience. Relaxing restrictions on cross-border labor mobility might have an even stronger positive effect on global inequality. However it also raises a similar tension. While there would likely be adverse effects on low-skill workers in the advanced economies, international labor mobility has some advantages compared to further liberalizing international trade in goods. I argue that none of the contending perspectives -- national-egalitarian, cosmopolitan, utilitarian -- provides on its own an adequate frame for evaluating the consequences.

January 2017

Rodrik D, Diao X, McMillan M. The Recent Growth Boom in Developing Economies: A Structural-Change Perspective. 2017.Abstract

Growth has accelerated in a wide range of developing countries over the last couple of decades, resulting in an extraordinary period of convergence with the advanced economies. We analyze this experience from the lens of structural change – the reallocation of labor from low- to high-productivity sectors. Patterns of structural change differ greatly in the recent growth experience. In contrast to the East Asian experience, none of the recent growth accelerations in Latin America, Africa, or South Asia was driven by rapid industrialization. Beyond that, we document that recent growth accelerations were based on either rapid within-sector labor productivity growth (Latin America) or growth-increasing structural change (Africa), but rarely both at the same time. The African experience is particularly intriguing, as growth-enhancing structural change appears to have come typically at the expense of declining labor productivity growth in the more modern sectors of the economy. We explain this anomaly by arguing that the forces that promoted structural change in Africa originated on the demand side, through either external transfers or increase in agricultural incomes. In contrast to Asia, structural change was the result of increased demand for goods and services produced in the modern sectors of the economy rather than productivity improvements in these sectors.

January 2017

Rodrik D, Mukand S. Ideas versus Interests: A Unified Political Economy Framework. 2016.Abstract

We develop a conceptual framework to highlight the role of ideas as a catalyst for policy and institutional change, making an explicit distinction between ideas and vested interests. We show how ideas and interests make separate contributions to the determination of policy, as well as how they feed into each other. In doing so we integrate the Keynes-Hayek perspective on the importance of ideas with the currently more fashionable Stigler-Becker (interests only) approach to political economy. The model allows us to distinguish between two kinds of ideational politics – the battle among different worldviews on the efficacy of policy (worldview politics) versus the politics of victimhood, pride and identity (identity politics). Our framework suggests a complementarity between worldview politics and identity politics. In particular, an increase in identity polarization may be associated with a shift in views about how the world works. Furthermore, an increase in income inequality is likely to result in a greater incidence of ideational politics.

Is Liberal Democracy Feasible in Developing Countries?. Studies in Comparative International Development. 2016.Abstract

Liberal democracy has been difficult to institute and sustain in developing countries. This has to do both with ideational factors—the absence of a liberal tradition prior to electoral mobilization—and structural conditions—the prevalence of mass mobilization along identity rather than class cleavages. This paper considers the conditions under which liberal democracy emerges and speculates about its future in developing countries.

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