Publisert av: Yngve Sætre | juli 13, 2012

Studiebrev fra Harvard 10/12


Boston, Cambridge, 12.07.12.

I dag hadde jeg presentasjon for klassen i komparativ politikk. Temaet var «Political Economy of Development». Uten tvil et både viktig og stort tema. Det var to av oss som skulle redegjøre for dette temaet på totalt 15 minutter.

Min del av presentasjonen var basert på to artikler om temaet, nærmere bestemt «Economic backwardness» av Alexander Gerschenkron og «When things fell apart» av Robert Bates.

Her er innlegget jeg holdt for klassen:

Economic Backwardness by Alexander Gerschenkron

I think the main point in the article is that Gerschenkron see economic development as a way to prevent revolutions.  If you don’t have development it could lead to dictatorship and war.

One of the questions from the article is what Germany and Russia did to catch up the development in Britain. I think the answer is that the banks had a very important role in Germany. The banks provided short term and long term capital and worked closely with the industry.

In Russia the state was important in the economic progress, and this was initiated by military events. This also leaded to corruption but the process can still be described as a success.

When it comes to the question of what we can learn from Gerschenkron and Dos Santos I think that Gerschenkron has a strong belief in the potential for economic development, but he emphasize that certain obstacles must be removed before it can happen.

He also says that it easier to grow if you can borrow technologies from developed countries. He believes that countries can learn from each other and interact in a positive way. I think this is a fundamentally different view than Dos Santos, which describe the same process as exploitation and dependence.

Because Gerschenkron see development as a way to prevent war, he also points out that developed countries have interest in helping backward countries.

A very important part of Gerschenkrons article is that each country must find their own way to development, and that there are great differences in speed and character.

He also says that small challenges does not produce any response, the challenge must be great before you get the response that can lead to development.

In a way he says that when you are at the bottom and there is no alternative – you have the best chances for success.

I think the weak part of Gerschenkrons article is that he does not mention property rights, education and political stability which I think are important factors for economic development. 

When things fell apart by Robert Bates

Bates defines antigrowth as more or less the same thing as control regimes.  They have a closed economy, distortion of prices and regulation of industries and markets.

In his article Bates describes in a very good way how a control regimes developes.

At first the government gets close ties with the urban industry, at the expense of agriculture.  It then forbids other political parties so that the majority – which is the farmers – loose their power. Then the government overvalue it’s currency which harms the farmers and the export industry. This leads to a trade deficit for the country. Then they have to regulate imports which leads to a big bureaucracy.

By this time the country is in a bad vicious circle, but the government uses this situation to take advantage of the high currency to reward their family and friends.

I think that Bates basically describes a rotten and undemocratic system – which is wasting a lot of resources.

I think that an important point in the article is that democracy and economic growth are linked together. Bates describes a system where the government removes the opposition so it can develop a control regime. In other words: they remove democracy and by that also the opportunity to economic development.

Another key point in the Bates article is that the antigrowth countries are not poor because they lack the resources, or because they are exploited or don’t have any institutions.

I think what Bates is saying is that government in these countries are choosing themselves to stay that way. They deliberately and with their eyes open choose to become and stay a control regime.  And the reason for this is that the elite want resources of income for themselves. And that is really the total opposite of the idea with democracy.

Yngve Saetre


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