In his Sir Arthur Lewis Distinguished Lecture (Powepoint file, 26 March, 2009), Rodrik makes a
weird comparison between economies intended to illustrate his claim that “countries that have performed the best in recenttimes are countries with ‘non-standard’ policies”. But his choice of comparator is the Heritage Foundation’s “Index of Economic Freedom” (who’d have thought DR would keep such company!). This seems to show (click thumbnail image) that you’re better off in Argentina or Bolivia—where I assume Rodrik says economic policies are ‘non-standard’, although it’s not clear to me how the management of Chile’s economy is ‘non-standard’—than in Vietnam or China.
Had he chosen a more objective measure of economic welfare, however, such as $PPP poverty indices, his comparison would look quite different. Just take a look at Vietnam’s economic performance on poverty, for example, as detailed in the table (click thumbnail) from this report of the World Bank’s International Development Association. Fifty-eight percent of the population at or below the $PPP 1/day poverty level in 1993; down to 16% in 2006. That’s an astonishing record and, if Rodrik thinks that Vietnam is just a ‘Washington Consensus’ dupe, then it’s a ringing endorsement of the Washington Consensus (of course, I don’t accept the premiss).