User Tools

Site Tools


the_elusive_quest_for_growth

Differences

This shows you the differences between two versions of the page.

Link to this comparison view

the_elusive_quest_for_growth [2009/02/11 02:42]
dan
the_elusive_quest_for_growth [2015/07/24 09:38] (current)
dan [Panaceas that Failed]
Line 2: Line 2:
  
 ====== Panaceas that Failed ====== ====== Panaceas that Failed ======
 +
 +[[http://​abridgeme/​lib/​exe/​fetch.php?​media=epub:​dan:​2015_july_24_11-38-46.epub|Download epub version]] (This is still a beta feature -- the epub version may be out of date, ugly, or just not work at all.  Sorry!)
  
  
Line 15: Line 17:
   * There is no statistical link between investment and growth. ​ This would also be necessary for the theory to hold.   * There is no statistical link between investment and growth. ​ This would also be necessary for the theory to hold.
 A modified and weaker form of the theory then claimed that investment is a necessary but insufficient condition for growth, so Easterly adds a third test, which finds A modified and weaker form of the theory then claimed that investment is a necessary but insufficient condition for growth, so Easterly adds a third test, which finds
-  * Most incidences of high growth in developing countries were not preceded by a commensurately high level of investment --- in other words, investment is not a prerequisite of growth (investment is not a sufficient nor necessary condition).+  * Most incidences of high growth in developing countries were not preceded by a commensurately high level of investment --- in other words, investment is not a prerequisite of growth (investment is neither ​a sufficient nor necessary condition).
  
 The extent to which the data fails to support the Harrod-Domar Model is quite surprising. The extent to which the data fails to support the Harrod-Domar Model is quite surprising.
Line 36: Line 38:
  
 Easterly suggests three main explanations as to why education has failed to deliver the economic growth that so many expected. ​ The first is the use to which educated people are putting their skills. ​ Many countries in which government intervention in the economy is extensive create a variety of opportunities for well-educated people to profit by lobbying government or working the system. ​ For example, foreign exchange controls tend to create an opportunity for intelligent black market currency trading, at the expense of government and importing or exporting firms. ​ A second reason is the way in which education has been provided, generally by the state and often compulsorily. ​ The quality of education is often very bad.  Teachers are underpaid and unmotivated,​ and students are not provided with basic materials like books and pens that they need to succeed. ​ In some context teaching posts are a form of political patronage and teachers are overprovided whilst nothing is spent on basic teaching materials. ​ The final reason is other trends within the economy. ​ Unless there is investment in machinery and technology that is generating a demand for those skills then the creation of these skills will have no economic impact. ​ It ought to be true that the generation of a high-skill workforce creates incentives to invest in machinery and technology, but it is equally possible that government policy has more than offset this incentive. Easterly suggests three main explanations as to why education has failed to deliver the economic growth that so many expected. ​ The first is the use to which educated people are putting their skills. ​ Many countries in which government intervention in the economy is extensive create a variety of opportunities for well-educated people to profit by lobbying government or working the system. ​ For example, foreign exchange controls tend to create an opportunity for intelligent black market currency trading, at the expense of government and importing or exporting firms. ​ A second reason is the way in which education has been provided, generally by the state and often compulsorily. ​ The quality of education is often very bad.  Teachers are underpaid and unmotivated,​ and students are not provided with basic materials like books and pens that they need to succeed. ​ In some context teaching posts are a form of political patronage and teachers are overprovided whilst nothing is spent on basic teaching materials. ​ The final reason is other trends within the economy. ​ Unless there is investment in machinery and technology that is generating a demand for those skills then the creation of these skills will have no economic impact. ​ It ought to be true that the generation of a high-skill workforce creates incentives to invest in machinery and technology, but it is equally possible that government policy has more than offset this incentive.
 +
  
 ===== Cash for Condoms ===== ===== Cash for Condoms =====
Line 42: Line 45:
 This presentation often seems a little dishonest. ​ For one thing, even in his theoretical explanation of the economics of the situation, Easterly does not mention fixed factors. ​ He uses the rapid increase in agricultural productivity in the post-war period to deny that land should be regarded as a limited resource, not mentioning the dependence on this expansion on another fixed resource, oil.  He does not mention water as a fixed resource. ​ He does not mention the likelihood that these constraints,​ particularly oil and water, only become significant when they bind, as they seem likely to do in the first half of the twenty-first century. This presentation often seems a little dishonest. ​ For one thing, even in his theoretical explanation of the economics of the situation, Easterly does not mention fixed factors. ​ He uses the rapid increase in agricultural productivity in the post-war period to deny that land should be regarded as a limited resource, not mentioning the dependence on this expansion on another fixed resource, oil.  He does not mention water as a fixed resource. ​ He does not mention the likelihood that these constraints,​ particularly oil and water, only become significant when they bind, as they seem likely to do in the first half of the twenty-first century.
  
-He argues that the fact of large numbers of unwanted births is a myth, that 90 per cent of the variation in fertility across countries is accounted for by variation in desired fertility. ​ 10 per cent seems like an awful lot to me, but apparently not to him.  He argues as an economist that the decision of how many children to have is far too important to be significantly influenced by the subsidisation of condoms, which would be supplied cheaply by the market if they were desired. ​ He argues that it is impossible for people to be unable to afford contraception if contraception is cheaper than having children. ​ He notes that various authors have predicted famine and disease to result from population growth in the last few decades, primarily Paul Ehrlich,​((1968,​ The Population Bomb.)) and that these disasters have not transpired. ​ He also summarises a literature that finds no association between population growth and per capita GDP growth. ​ There is no empirical evidence that population growth is harmful. ​ Furthermore,​ by far the most robust finding is that increase in income reduces fertility, that the most foolproof method to reduce population growth is to increase economic growth (again this ignores the view that both population and economic growth push us towards binding resource constraints and in this respect might be equally ​'​harmful).  He briefly discusses the externalities of having children as a justification for subsidising contraception,​ concluding that there are both positive and negative externalities and it is difficult to conclude that one set easily outweighs the other.+He argues that the fact of large numbers of unwanted births is a myth, that 90 per cent of the variation in fertility across countries is accounted for by variation in desired fertility. ​ 10 per cent seems like an awful lot to me, but apparently not to him.  He argues as an economist that the decision of how many children to have is far too important to be significantly influenced by the subsidisation of condoms, which would be supplied cheaply by the market if they were desired. ​ He argues that it is impossible for people to be unable to afford contraception if contraception is cheaper than having children. ​ He notes that various authors have predicted famine and disease to result from population growth in the last few decades, primarily Paul Ehrlich,​((1968,​ The Population Bomb.)) and that these disasters have not transpired. ​ He also summarises a literature that finds no association between population growth and per capita GDP growth. ​ There is no empirical evidence that population growth is harmful. ​ Furthermore,​ by far the most robust finding is that increase in income reduces fertility, that the most foolproof method to reduce population growth is to increase economic growth (again this ignores the view that both population and economic growth push us towards binding resource constraints and in this respect might be equally ​problematic).  He briefly discusses the externalities of having children as a justification for subsidising contraception,​ concluding that there are both positive and negative externalities and it is difficult to conclude that one set easily outweighs the other.
  
 HIV is not mentioned once, not even from a purely economic standpoint. HIV is not mentioned once, not even from a purely economic standpoint.
Line 51: Line 54:
  
 Easterly explains this failure in terms of a range of perverse incentives on the part both of donors and recipients: Easterly explains this failure in terms of a range of perverse incentives on the part both of donors and recipients:
-  * Donors care about the poor in developing countries. ​ They are therefore to withdraw aid to governments that do not deliver reform, because of the impact of this privation ​on the poor.  In this sense, the poor population becomes an '​asset'​ to the recipient government: so long as it maintains a large population in poverty, donors will be forced to provide aid: there is no incentive to get people out of poverty. ​ This is an argument in favour of greater brutality on the part of donors...+  * Donors care about the poor in developing countries. ​ They are therefore ​reluctant ​to withdraw aid to governments that do not deliver reform, because of the impact of this cut in aid on the poor.  In this sense, the poor population becomes an '​asset'​ to the recipient government: so long as it maintains a large population in poverty, donors will be forced to provide aid: there is no incentive to get people out of poverty. ​ This is an argument in favour of greater brutality on the part of donors...
   * Donor institutions are generally divided into country desks, and the size, budget and prestige of the desk or department depends on the volume of aid it disburses: so the donor'​s decision-maker has a clear incentive to disburse loans under any circumstances,​ and a disincentive to cut loans significantly,​ even in response to non-compliance of recipients.   * Donor institutions are generally divided into country desks, and the size, budget and prestige of the desk or department depends on the volume of aid it disburses: so the donor'​s decision-maker has a clear incentive to disburse loans under any circumstances,​ and a disincentive to cut loans significantly,​ even in response to non-compliance of recipients.
   * The connection of loans to policy change encourages recipients to '​zigzag'​ their policy.   * The connection of loans to policy change encourages recipients to '​zigzag'​ their policy.
   * Non-performance of old loans is embarrassing to donors, as an admission that their policy reform programmes have failed catastrophically. ​ There is therefore a strong incentive to provide loans to ensure that a poorly performing recipient can continue to meet interest payments on existing loans.   * Non-performance of old loans is embarrassing to donors, as an admission that their policy reform programmes have failed catastrophically. ​ There is therefore a strong incentive to provide loans to ensure that a poorly performing recipient can continue to meet interest payments on existing loans.
-One study claims that 1 per cent in GDP of aid in a good policy environment leads to 0.6 per cent growth in GDP, implying that this failure of structural adjustment loans to achieve an improvement in policy has cost the developing world a great deal of growth. 
  
-Easterly'​s recommendations are simple. ​ Firstly, the amount of aid offered should be conditional primarily on past performance, ​ie proven track record: on key indicators of policy (inflation, black market exchange rate premium) and growth. ​ Secondly, aid should increase as countries become richer and as the numbers in poverty decline. ​ This is absolutely necessary to avoid providing perverse disincentives to growth and poverty reduction.+One study claims that aid equivalent to 1 per cent in GDP in a good policy environment leads to 0.6 per cent growth in GDP, implying that this failure of structural adjustment loans to achieve any improvement in policy has cost the developing world a great deal of growth. 
 + 
 +Easterly'​s recommendations are simple. ​ Firstly, the amount of aid offered should be conditional primarily on past performance, ​i.e. proven track record: on key indicators of policy (inflation, black market exchange rate premium) and growth. ​ Secondly, aid should increase as countries become richer and as the numbers in poverty decline. ​ This is absolutely necessary to avoid providing perverse disincentives to growth and poverty reduction.
  
 Clearly, the obvious objection to Easterly'​s proposals is that he argues that most aid should be given to those who need it least, and no aid should be given to those in desperate need.  His assumption appears to be that the really crucial determinant of growth is policy, not aid, and that growth and poverty reduction can be achieved with good policy and no (or very little) aid.  He believes that the empirical evidence bears him out: that aid is only beneficial in a good policy environment,​ so it is better to have good policy and little aid than lots of aid being wasted by bad policy. Clearly, the obvious objection to Easterly'​s proposals is that he argues that most aid should be given to those who need it least, and no aid should be given to those in desperate need.  His assumption appears to be that the really crucial determinant of growth is policy, not aid, and that growth and poverty reduction can be achieved with good policy and no (or very little) aid.  He believes that the empirical evidence bears him out: that aid is only beneficial in a good policy environment,​ so it is better to have good policy and little aid than lots of aid being wasted by bad policy.
Line 87: Line 91:
 Where increasing returns dominate, there is a tendency for increasing returns to create '​traps,'​ that is, virtuous and vicious cycles. ​ In a low-skill economy, the returns to investment in education will be low because of lack of other high-skill workers with whom to cooperate to fully exploit one's skills. ​ The incentive to seek education may therefore be too low to be worth the costs involved, and it will be rational to remain uneducated and poor.  It might only be worth investing in education if it is possible to migrate to a high-skill economy to find these matches --- so brain drain tends to exacerbate the problem. Where increasing returns dominate, there is a tendency for increasing returns to create '​traps,'​ that is, virtuous and vicious cycles. ​ In a low-skill economy, the returns to investment in education will be low because of lack of other high-skill workers with whom to cooperate to fully exploit one's skills. ​ The incentive to seek education may therefore be too low to be worth the costs involved, and it will be rational to remain uneducated and poor.  It might only be worth investing in education if it is possible to migrate to a high-skill economy to find these matches --- so brain drain tends to exacerbate the problem.
  
-Easterly extends this idea of traps to explain variation in income by geography and race purely on the basis of a difference of initial conditions, because under increasing returns variation tends to be self-reinforcing. ​ He proposes a race model in which whites begin as high-skill and blacks low-skill. ​ If there is any segregation in economic enterprise between the races then it may be rational for whites to seek education and blacks to not.  Furthermore,​ if there are costs associated with uncovering the true educational level of a particular worker, it may be rational for a white employer to only select whites rather than pay to discover the true educational level, on the basis that the probability that a white his high-skill is high and for a black, low.  If white employers are known to use this policy, then it will be rational for whites to pursue education and for blacks not to: even without a legal or geographical divide, the perpetuation of a racial income disparity can be rationally self-reinforcing. ​ This is a broad, powerful and intuitive '​it'​s-not-their-fault'​ defence of low income groups, races, countries and geographical areas.+Easterly extends this idea of traps to explain variation in income by geography and race purely on the basis of a difference of initial conditions, because under increasing returns variation tends to be self-reinforcing. ​ He proposes a race model in which whites begin as high-skill and blacks low-skill. ​ If there is any segregation in economic enterprise between the races then it may be rational for whites to seek education and blacks to not.  Furthermore,​ if there are costs associated with uncovering the true educational level of a particular worker, it may be rational for a white employer to only select whites rather than pay to discover the true educational level, on the basis that the probability that a white is high-skill is highand for a black, ​it is low.  If white employers are known to use this policy, then it will be rational for whites to pursue education and for blacks not to: even without a legal or geographical divide, the perpetuation of a racial income disparity can be rationally self-reinforcing. ​ This is a broad, powerful and intuitive '​it'​s-not-their-fault'​ defence of low income groups, races, countries and geographical areas.
  
 Finally, expectations matter. ​ In deciding whether or not to invest in education, it is not the current state of national skill levels that are important, but expectations of future skill levels when the investment in education comes to maturity. ​ There may therefore be a coordination problem in which many people are willing to invest privately, so long as the others do likewise, though this is generally impossible to negotiate or enforce. ​ But credible promises by some competent agency may be very important. Finally, expectations matter. ​ In deciding whether or not to invest in education, it is not the current state of national skill levels that are important, but expectations of future skill levels when the investment in education comes to maturity. ​ There may therefore be a coordination problem in which many people are willing to invest privately, so long as the others do likewise, though this is generally impossible to negotiate or enforce. ​ But credible promises by some competent agency may be very important.
Line 97: Line 101:
   * The government can try to solve the coordination problem by attracting the initial investment needed to create a new industry, when investment incentives would not otherwise initially be sufficiently strong.   * The government can try to solve the coordination problem by attracting the initial investment needed to create a new industry, when investment incentives would not otherwise initially be sufficiently strong.
  
-> This is a plausible story of the government-business collaboration that helped jump-start the East Asian growth miracle. --p169+> This is a plausible story of the government-business collaboration that helped jump-start the East Asian growth miracle. ​---p169
  
   * Where pockets of poverty are left behind by economic growth, the government has a role in subsidising the acquisition of skills by those locked in this poverty trap.  However, in order not to disrupt incentives, this support must encourage the poor to increase their incomes: welfare should therefore take an income-matching structure (benefits increase as income increases). ​ Benefits for the poor usually take the opposite form, creating strong disincentives to gradually work their way out of poverty by pursuing higher wages.   * Where pockets of poverty are left behind by economic growth, the government has a role in subsidising the acquisition of skills by those locked in this poverty trap.  However, in order not to disrupt incentives, this support must encourage the poor to increase their incomes: welfare should therefore take an income-matching structure (benefits increase as income increases). ​ Benefits for the poor usually take the opposite form, creating strong disincentives to gradually work their way out of poverty by pursuing higher wages.
Line 109: Line 113:
   * Weak intellectual property rights (particularly internationally) enable and encourage imitation and adoption of foreign technology; and less directly at odds, but importantly,​   * Weak intellectual property rights (particularly internationally) enable and encourage imitation and adoption of foreign technology; and less directly at odds, but importantly,​
   * Weak intellectual property rights are an equalising force that enable a broad section of the population to benefit from an invention, rather than, where IP rights are perfect, only the innovator (thus a society with perfect IP rights would tend to vastly enrich a tiny elite of inventors responsible for great technological breakthroughs,​ and broader societal benefits from these inventions are largely driven out by the monopoly owned by the innovator).   * Weak intellectual property rights are an equalising force that enable a broad section of the population to benefit from an invention, rather than, where IP rights are perfect, only the innovator (thus a society with perfect IP rights would tend to vastly enrich a tiny elite of inventors responsible for great technological breakthroughs,​ and broader societal benefits from these inventions are largely driven out by the monopoly owned by the innovator).
-)) --p178-9+)) ---p178-9
  
 ===== Creative Destruction:​ Substitute Technology Resisting the New ===== ===== Creative Destruction:​ Substitute Technology Resisting the New =====
Line 124: Line 128:
  
 To some extent which effect dominates --- the convergent or divergent --- depends on whether poor countries can identify and invest in those technologies which naturally offer an advantage to those without incumbent resistance. To some extent which effect dominates --- the convergent or divergent --- depends on whether poor countries can identify and invest in those technologies which naturally offer an advantage to those without incumbent resistance.
 +
 +
  
 ===== Under an Evil Star ===== ===== Under an Evil Star =====
Line 131: Line 137:
 It is worth mentioning the concept of 'mean reversion',​ by which the most predictable outcome in a sample dominated by randomness is that the highest performers will do worse in the next period, and the worst performers will do better. It is worth mentioning the concept of 'mean reversion',​ by which the most predictable outcome in a sample dominated by randomness is that the highest performers will do worse in the next period, and the worst performers will do better.
  
-> The principle of mean reversion is universal. All you need to get strong mean reversion is that at least some role for luck and selection of the best outcome of the previous period. Mean reversion explains why the Rookie of the Year in the American League has a worse second year (the so-called sophomore jinx --- the Rookie of the Year moves back toward the average after an exceptional first year), why the NFL Super Bowl winner seems to fall apart the next year (the team doesn'​t really fall apart; it just falls back toward the mean), why second novels are disappointing (we pay attention to the second novel only when the first was exceptional),​ why movie sequels are usually not as good as the original (a sequel is made only after an extremely successful movie, an extreme success is unlikely to recur), and why a stock market prognosticator falls out of favour right after a streak of accurate predictions (she had a lucky streak that got our attention and then reverted to average). --p205+> The principle of mean reversion is universal. All you need to get strong mean reversion is at least some role for luck and selection of the best outcome of the previous period. Mean reversion explains why the Rookie of the Year in the American League has a worse second year (the so-called sophomore jinx --- the Rookie of the Year moves back toward the average after an exceptional first year), why the NFL Super Bowl winner seems to fall apart the next year (the team doesn'​t really fall apart; it just falls back toward the mean), why second novels are disappointing (we pay attention to the second novel only when the first was exceptional),​ why movie sequels are usually not as good as the original (a sequel is made only after an extremely successful movie, an extreme success is unlikely to recur), and why a stock market prognosticator falls out of favour right after a streak of accurate predictions (she had a lucky streak that got our attention and then reverted to average). ​---p205 
 + 
 +//​[[wp>​In Search of Excellence]]//​ provides a good example --- a survey of thirty-six exceptional companies, around two thirds of which performed below average over the course of the next period.
  
-In Search ​of Excellence provides ​good example ​--- a survey of thirty-six exceptional companies, around two thirds of which performed below average over the course of the next period.+> I don't really believe that growth is completely random. I hope that evidence elsewhere in this book will convince you that government policies and other factors have a strong association with growth and prosperity in the long run... Keeping in mind the role of luck in economic development will... allow us to be more charitable toward countries where growth has taken dive. Bad government policies are usually partly to blame, but so is bad luck. ---p214
  
-> I don't really believe that growth is completely random. I hope that evidence elsewhere in this book will convince you that government policies and other factors have a strong association with growth and prosperity in the long run... Keeping in mind the role of luck in economic development will... allow us to be more charitable toward countries where growth has taken a dive. Bad government policies are usually partly to blame, but so is bad luck. --p214 
  
  
Line 145: Line 152:
   * High budget deficit: the explanation here is that deficits   * High budget deficit: the explanation here is that deficits
  
-> create the anticipation of future tax hikes to reduce the deficit and service the public debt. They raise the possibility of inflation that will tax money holdings. They lead to general macroeconomic instability,​ which makes it hard to tell which projects are good and which firms should get loans. --p226+> create the anticipation of future tax hikes to reduce the deficit and service the public debt. They raise the possibility of inflation that will tax money holdings. They lead to general macroeconomic instability,​ which makes it hard to tell which projects are good and which firms should get loans. ​---p226
  
 This seems to be one of the weaker arguments, in particular because a high budget deficit is such a natural consequence of negative external shocks (eg terms of trade shocks) that Easterly has already identified as a growth killer. ​ He spends some time on a single case study --- Mexico --- which seems to start from a sound economic position, adds budget deficits, and ends in collapse, but whether that story generalises is a little more unclear. This seems to be one of the weaker arguments, in particular because a high budget deficit is such a natural consequence of negative external shocks (eg terms of trade shocks) that Easterly has already identified as a growth killer. ​ He spends some time on a single case study --- Mexico --- which seems to start from a sound economic position, adds budget deficits, and ends in collapse, but whether that story generalises is a little more unclear.
-  * Killing banks: in particular, through usury laws which place an upper limit on nominal interest rates, thus forcing banks to offer negative real interest rates under conditions of moderate-to-high inflation. ​ Savings are withdrawn and sent abroad or invested in real estate, and banks are left with no working capital to lend.  Little is said on the relation between this issue and inflation --- clearly it only exists in countries with substantial inflation problems. ​ Also, a real interest rate of between ​zero and −20 are viewed as a '​mild'​ problem, still likely to accompany positive (though reduced) growth.+  * Killing banks: in particular, through usury laws which place an upper limit on nominal interest rates, thus forcing banks to offer negative real interest rates under conditions of moderate-to-high inflation. ​ Savings are withdrawn and sent abroad or invested in real estate, and banks are left with no working capital to lend.  Little is said on the relation between this issue and inflation --- clearly it only exists in countries with substantial inflation problems. ​ Also, a real interest rate of between ​--20 and zero per cent is viewed as a '​mild'​ problem, still likely to accompany positive (though reduced) growth.
   * Closing the Economy: this is where we begin to stagger over really difficult ground. ​ There'​s a quick stab at the evils of import substitution,​ listed as   * Closing the Economy: this is where we begin to stagger over really difficult ground. ​ There'​s a quick stab at the evils of import substitution,​ listed as
     * It's based on the mistaken prediction that commodity prices would trend downwards. ​ Easterly mentions the difficulty of taking into account gradually improving quality of manufactured goods --- without mentioning that surely this is the main motivation to diversify towards manufactures:​ there are higher productivity improvements over time than can be expected in commodity production, so it's the '​right'​ long-term path to be on (irrespective of current '​comparative advantage'​). ​ The prediction that commodity prices would trend downward seems to me to be a sound application of the precautionary principle --- nobody knew at the time, and it would have been extremely dangerous for the poor world had they declined rapidly.     * It's based on the mistaken prediction that commodity prices would trend downwards. ​ Easterly mentions the difficulty of taking into account gradually improving quality of manufactured goods --- without mentioning that surely this is the main motivation to diversify towards manufactures:​ there are higher productivity improvements over time than can be expected in commodity production, so it's the '​right'​ long-term path to be on (irrespective of current '​comparative advantage'​). ​ The prediction that commodity prices would trend downward seems to me to be a sound application of the precautionary principle --- nobody knew at the time, and it would have been extremely dangerous for the poor world had they declined rapidly.
the_elusive_quest_for_growth.1234320124.txt.gz · Last modified: 2009/02/11 12:00 (external edit)