Dani Rodrik
Photo credit: Judith Affolter

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 was previously the Albert O. Hirschman Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2013-2015).

Professor Rodrik is currently President-Elect of the International Economic Association. His newest book is Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy (2017).

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Recent Research

Is Populism Necessarily Bad Economics?. AEA Papers and Proceedings 2018. 2018;(108) :196-199.Abstract

I distinguish between political and economic populism. Both are averse to agencies of restraint, or, equivalently, delegation to technocrats or external rules. In the economic domain, delegation to independent agencies (domestic or foreign) occurs in two different contexts: (a) in order to prevent the majority from harming itself in the future; and (b) in order to cement a redistribution arising from a temporary political advantage for the longer-term. Economic policy restraints that arise in the first case are desirable; those that arise in the second case are much less so.

What Do Trade Agreements Really Do?. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2018;23 (2) :73-90.Abstract
As trade agreements have evolved and gone beyond import tariffs and quotas into regulatory rules and harmonization, they have become more difficult to fit into received economic theory. Nevertheless, most economists continue to regard trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) favorably. The default view seems to be that these arrangements get us closer to free trade by reducing transaction costs associated with regulatory differences or explicit protectionism. An alternative perspective is that trade agreements are the result of rent-seeking, self-interested behavior on the part of politically well-connected firms – international banks, pharmaceutical companies, multinational firms. They may result in freer, mutually beneficial trade, through exchange of market access. But they are as likely to produce purely redistributive outcomes under the guise of “freer trade.”
Rodrik D, Mukand S. The Political Economy of Ideas: On Ideas Versus Interests in Policymaking. 2018.Abstract

We develop a conceptual framework to highlight the role of ideas as a catalyst for policy and institutional change. We make an explicit distinction between ideas and vested interests and show how they feed into each other. In doing so the paper integrates the Keynes-Hayek perspective on the importance of ideas with the currently more fashionable Stigler-Becker (in-terests only) approach to political economy. We 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). Political entrepreneurs discover identity and policy ‘memes’ (narratives, cues, framing) that shift beliefs about how the world works or a person’s belief of who he is (i.e. identity). Our framework identifies a complementarity between worldview politics and identity politics and illustrates how they may reinforce each other. 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. Finally, we show how ideas may not just constrain, but also ‘bite’ the interests that helped propagate them in the first instance.

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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.

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