Rodrik’s many recipes

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).


  • Dani Rodrik wrote:

    Dear Peter

    I am afraid you got my exam­ple upside down, which I must attribute to the lack of clar­i­ty of my slide (teach­es me not to post these pre­sen­ta­tions!).  My point is exact­ly what you are say­ing: Viet­nam, Chi­na, India have non-stan­dard poli­cies by WC cri­te­ria, and indeed they have done bet­ter than Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries since the late 1980s. The chart aims to show that high-per­form­ers (Chi­na et al.) have “poli­cies” accord­ing to WC stan­dards.

  • Dear Dan­ni,

    My apolo­gies for this mis­un­der­stand­ing… I should have guessed from your choice of the Her­itage index that you were being iron­ic in your illus­tra­tion of ‘high per­for­mance’ in that chart.  (The last sen­tence of your com­ment is a bit puz­zling. Did you leave a ‘not’ out of it some­where?)

    I’m glad that you were invit­ed to deliv­er the Arthur Lewis lec­ture. His “Evo­lu­tion of the Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Order” was one of the first books I read on the so-called the ‘New Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Order’ when I worked on UNCTAD for the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment in the late 1970s. That book made a lot of sense, per­haps because Lewis had been per­son­al­ly involved in places like Ghana where the ortho­dox solu­tions seemed to fail bad­ly (but were in any case sub­vert­ed by a tech­no­crat turned autocrat—Kwame). He was a great writer and an admirable man.

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