The Tyranny of Political Economy by Dani Rodrik – Project Syndicate
Most important from the perspective of policy analysis, ideas determine the strategies that political actors believe they can pursue. For example, one way for elites to remain in power is to suppress all economic activity. But another is to encourage economic development while diversifying their own economic base, establishing coalitions, fostering state-directed industrialization, or pursuing a variety of other strategies limited only by the elites’ imagination. Expand the range of feasible strategies (which is what good policy design and leadership do), and you radically change behavior and outcomes. Indeed, this is what explains some of the most astounding turnarounds in economic performance in recent decades, such as South Korea’s and China’s breakout growth (in the 1960’s and the late 1970’s, respectively). In both cases, the biggest winners were “vested interests” (Korea’s business establishment and the Chinese Communist Party). What enabled reform was not a reconfiguration of political power, but the emergence of new strategies. Economic change often happens not when vested interests are defeated, but when different strategies are used to pursue those interests.
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