Not-so-great moments in development economics

The food crisis in Africa has had a large number of parents, but key among them has to be the persistent failures of policies developed in accord with the changing fashions of economic orthodoxy. In the early days of post-Independence, the focus was on pushing poor countries to make the transformation from agriculturally oriented, rural societies to urban and industrial ones at all costs, with the assumption that agricultural revenues should be used to fund industrialization rather than investments in farming productivity. And if you happened to be one of those who worked on those farms, well then you were left to the tender mercies of those guided by the words of W. Arthur Lewis, who wrote in a widely cited 1954 paper on rural development:

But if the capitalist sector depends upon the peasants for food, it is essential to get the  peasants to produce more, while if at the same time they can be prevented from enjoying the full fruit of their extra production, wages can be reduced relatively to the capitalist surplus.

On a happier note, I am reading Dani Rodrik’s new book on globalization and it is outstanding. As in labor economics, the profession is growing in some very interesting directions.

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