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.
Large gaps in labor productivity between the traditional and modern parts of the economy are a fundamental reality of developing societies. In this paper, we document these gaps, and emphasize that labor flows from low-productivity activities to high-productivity activities are a key driver of development. Our results show that since 1990 structural change has been growth reducing – with labor moving from low – to high- productivity sectors – in both Africa and Latin America, with the most striking changes taking place in Latin America. Our results also show that things seem to be turning around in Africa: after 2000, structural change contributed positively to Africa’s overall productivity growth. For Africa, these results are encouraging. Moreover, the very low levels of productivity and industrialization across most of the continent indicate an enormous potential for growth through structural change.
Green growth requires green technologies: production techniques that economize on exhaustible resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases. The availability of green technologies both lowers social costs in the transition to a green growth path and helps achieve a satisfactory rate of material progress under that path. The theoretical case in favour of using industrial policy to facilitate green growth is quite strong. Economists’ traditional scepticism on industrial policy is grounded instead on pragmatic considerations having to do with the difficulty of achieving well-targeted and effective interventions in practice. While these objections deserve serious attention, I argue that they are not insurmountable. A key objective of this paper is to show how the practice of industrial policy can be improved by designing institutional frameworks that counter both informational and political risks.
Substantial progress in the fight against extreme poverty was made in the last two decades. But the slowdown in global economic growth and significant increases in income inequality in many developed and developing countries raise serious concerns about the continuation of this trend into the 21st century. The time has come to seriously think about how improvements in official global governance, coupled with and reinforced by rising activism of 'global citizens' can lead to welfare-enhancing and more equitable results for global citizens through better national and international policies.
This book examines the factors that are most likely to facilitate the process of beneficial economic growth in low-, middle-, and high-income countries. It examines past, present, and future economic growth; demographic changes; the hyperglobalization of trade; the effect of finance on growth; climate change and resource depletion; and the sense of global citizenship and the need for global governance in order to draw longer-term implications, identify policy options for improving the lives of average citizens around the world, and make the case for the need to confront new challenges with truly global policy responses. The book documents how demographic changes, convergence, and competition are likely to bring about massive shifts in the sectoral and geographical composition of global output and employment, as the center of gravity of the global economy moves toward Asia and emerging economies elsewhere. It shows that the legacies of the 2008-09 crisis-high unemployment levels, massive excess capacities, and high debt levels-are likely to reduce the standard of living of millions of people in many countries over a long period of adjustment and that fluctuations in international trade, financial markets, and commodity prices, as well as the tendency of institutions at both the national and international level to favor the interests of the better-off and more powerful pose substantial risks for citizens of all countries. The chapters and their policy implications are intended to stimulate public interest and facilitate the exchange of ideas and policy dialogue.
Ideas are strangely absent from modern models of political economy. In most prevailing theories of policy choice, the dominant role is instead played by "vested interests"—elites, lobbies, and rent-seeking groups which get their way at the expense of the general public. Any model of political economy in which organized interests do not figure prominently is likely to remain vacuous and incomplete. But it does not follow from this that interests are the ultimate determinant of political outcomes. Here I will challenge the notion that there is a well-defined mapping from "interests" to outcomes. This mapping depends on many unstated assumptions about the ideas that political agents have about: 1) what they are maximizing, 2) how the world works, and 3) the set of tools they have at their disposal to further their interests. Importantly, these ideas are subject to both manipulation and innovation, making them part of the political game. There is, in fact, a direct parallel, as I will show, between inventive activity in technology, which economists now routinely make endogenous in their models, and investment in persuasion and policy innovation in the political arena. I focus specifically on models professing to explain economic inefficiency and argue that outcomes in such models are determined as much by the ideas that elites are presumed to have on feasible strategies as by vested interests themselves. A corollary is that new ideas about policy—or policy entrepreneurship—can exert an independent effect on equilibrium outcomes even in the absence of changes in the configuration of political power. I conclude by discussing the sources of new ideas.
Written jointly with Pinar Dogan, this is an update of our 2010 book (see below) on the infamous Sledgehammer case in Turkey. In addition to the Sledgehammer trial, the book covers the Ergenekon and other court cases that were stage managed by the Gulen network, in cooperation with the Erdogan government. It provides detailed evidence on the framing of innocent victims by police and prosecutors in an evident attempt to politically redesign the country. It also examines the role of the media and intelligentsia in shaping public opinion over the trials.
Unlike economies as a whole, manufacturing industries exhibit strong unconditional convergence in labor productivity. The article documents this at various levels of disaggregation for a large sample covering more than 100 countries over recent decades. The result is highly robust to changes in the sample and specification. The coefficient of unconditional convergence is estimated quite precisely and is large, at between 2–3% in most specifications and 2.9% a year in the baseline specification covering 118 countries. The article also finds substantial sigma convergence at the two-digit level for a smaller sample of countries. Despite strong convergence within manufacturing, aggregate convergence fails due to the small share of manufacturing employment in low-income countries and the slow pace of industrialization. Because of data coverage, these findings should be as viewed as applying to the organized, formal parts of manufacturing.
The nation-state has long been under attack from liberal economists and cosmopolitan ethicists alike. But it has proved remarkably resilient and remains the principal locus of governance as well as the primary determinant of personal attachments and identity. The global financial crisis has further under- scored its centrality. Against the background of the globalization revolution, the tendency is to view the nation-state as a hindrance to the achievement of desirable economic and social outcomes. Yet it remains indispensable to the achievement of those goals.
Government use policy to achieve certain outcomes. Sometimes the desired ends are worthwhile, and sometimes they are pernicious. Cross-country regressions have been the tool of choice in assessing the effectiveness of policies and the empirical relevance of these two diametrically opposite views of government behavior. When government policy responds systematically to economic or political objectives, the standard growth regression in which economic growth (or any other performance indicator) is regressed on policy tells us nothing about the effectiveness of policy and whether government motives are good or bad.
A short paper on the (mis)use of growth regressions.
Rodrik D. Do We Need to Rethink Growth Policies?. In: Blanchard O, Romer D, Spence M, Stiglitz J In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy. Cambridge: The MIT Press ; 2012. pp. 157-167.PDF
The global financial crisis has demonstrated that a financially open economy has many areas of vulnerability. Even when a country keeps its own house in order, it remains at the mercy of developments in external financial markets. So, one lesson to bear in mind is that policymakers need to guard against not just domestic shocks, but also shocks that emanate outward from financial instability elsewhere. To accomplish this, complete financial openness is not the best policy. A second lesson is that Turkey's prevailing growth strategy can neither be sustained nor generate enough employment. Therefore, it would be a mistake for the country to return to the status quo ante and resuscitate a model that fails to make adequate use of domestic resources. Most importantly, Turkey has to learn to live with a reduced reliance on external borrowing. The paper discusses the needed realignments in fiscal and exchange-rate policies.
The objective of international economic arrangements must be to attain the maximum amount of integration or the maximum thickness in economic transactions that are consistent with maintaining space for diversity in national institutions and the arrangements. The objective would be to create enough policy space to allow rich countries to rework their social compacts at home, poor countries to restructure and diversify their economies so that they can position themselves better to benefit from globalisation, and all nations, rich and poor alike, to establish financial systems and regulatory structures that are more attuned to their own needs. A better managed globalisation will be a better globalisation, argues the paper.
Unlike economies as a whole, manufacturing industries exhibit unconditional convergence in labor productivity. The paper documents this finding for 4-digit manufacturing sectors for a large group of developed and developing countries over the period since 1990. The coefficient of unconditional convergence is estimated quite precisely and is large, at 3.0-5.6 percent per year depending on the estimation horizon. The result is robust to a large number of specification tests, and statistically highly significant. Because of data coverage, these findings should be as viewed as applying to the organized, formal parts of manufacturing.