Introduction: Dani Rodrik Seminar

by Henry on November 13, 2007

Update 1: The second half of the seminar is now available below. Those who prefer to read the posts in hard copy (or in a nicely formatted PDF) can download it “here”: Those who want to remix the text using LaTeX or similar, can download the .tex file “here”: John Holbo will probably be doing a prettier remix of the PDF sometime over the next few days.

Update 2: “David Warsh”: supplements the post below with a very interesting analysis of what Rodrik’s arguments mean in the broader debates over economics and development.

Update 3: Kieran has done some LaTeX-fu on the PDF, providing a much nicer looking and more functional product – hence I’ve replaced the original file with his updated version.

Dani Rodrik’s new book, _One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions and Economic Growth_ ( “Powells”:, “Amazon”: ) is a major contribution to debates on globalization, economic development and free trade. It brings together much of his existing work bringing together an important critique of the Washington Consensus with positive suggestions about how best to encourage economic growth, and how to build a global system of rules that can accommodate diverse national choices. We’re pleased and happy that both Dani and several other guests have agreed to participate in a new Crooked Timber seminar. This seminar will be published in two parts – the first today (featuring Henry Farrell, John Quiggin, Mark Thoma and David Warsh), the second tomorrow (featuring Daniel Davies, Dan Drezner, Jack Knight, Adam Przeworski, and Dani’s reply post). As with previous Crooked Timber seminars, it is published under a Creative Commons license (see below). Tomorrow, I will post a PDF of the entire seminar (plus a LaTeX file for anyone who wants to play around with it). If you have specific comments about the contributions, please post them in the relevant comments section for the specific post. For general technical glitches etc, post comments here.

The (non-CT regular) participants in the seminar are, in alphabetical order:

(1) Dan Drezner blogs at “”: He is an Associate Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University. He has written two academic books on international political economy (looking at sanctions and globalization), as well as a Council of Foreign Relations report and numerous articles. He possesses specific expertise on the intersection between celebrity culture and global politics.

(2) Jack Knight is Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University in St. Louis. He is author of a widely cited book on institutional theory, _Institutions and Social Conflict_ as well as numerous articles. He has a new book co-authored with Jim Johnson on rational choice, pragmatism and deliberative democracy, which will be published next year.

(3) Adam Przeworski is Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of European Studies and Professor of Politics at New York University. He is the author of several monographs and numerous articles on topics including social democracy, democratic transitions and economic development. This “interview”: (previously discussed in “this”: CT post) gives a good overview of his life, politics, and academic work.

(4) Dani Rodrik blogs at “Dani Rodrik’s Weblog”: He is Professor of International Political Economy at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, where he teaches on international development issues. He has written two books, copious numbers of academic articles and policy papers, and was recently awarded the inaugural Albert O. Hirschman Prize of the Social Science Research Council.

(5) Mark Thoma blogs at “Economist’s View”:, which has quickly become established as one of the key forums for debate of economics and politics on the Internet (with occasional interjections by Paul Krugman and others). He is professor of economics at University of Oregon, where he has published numerous articles on aspects of macroeconomics theory.

(6) David Warsh is the editor of “Economic Principals”: He previously covered economics issues for _The Boston Globe_ and _Forbes Magazine_ for 25 years, and is the author of a widely acclaimed (and rightly so) intellectual history of the new growth theory in economics, _Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations_

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by Dani Rodrik on November 13, 2007

I owe Henry Farrell thanks for managing to get me such a thoughtful set of reactions from such a distinguished group of commentators. It is gratifying that the book’s main themes appear to have resonated with these readers—even though of course there are many areas of gentle dissent and some real disagreements. I am struck as well by the richness of the diverse elaborations my commentators offer, suggesting that my very practical agenda may have come into contact with strands of intellectual inquiry of which I was perhaps only vaguely aware. [click to continue…]

One Economics

by Adam Przeworski on November 13, 2007

The main point of Rodrik’s book is that economics leaves a lot of slack for policy prescriptions. As I see it, this may be true for two distinct reasons. One is that economic knowledge is not sufficiently robust in general to indicate appropriate policies. Another is that it is inherently incomplete, specifically, that it cannot and does not consider all the factors that may matter in the particular situations to which policies are applied. Rodrik emphasizes the second reason but first I want to comment on the title.

To put it in a nutshell, is it “One Economics, Many Recipes” or “Many Economics, …”? In what sense do we have “one economics”? Economics is a science that derives conclusions about states of collectivities (“the economy” but also “the polity,” since the same methods are now applied to politics) from assumptions about preferences of individuals and the constraints they face. What unifies economics are the methods for making such inferences. The assumptions vary: they are at best disciplined by “stylized facts” and often at variance with more direct, psychological, evidence. Moreover, these assumptions often reflect ideological priors. One example that jumps to my mind is an article, published in a leading journal of political economy, that went like this: assume that tax revenues do not finance inputs into production, assume that they do not subsidize consumption, write a growth model, and — surprise — taxes are bad for growth! But almost the same year, another article, published in an equally reputable journal, assumed that public inputs are complementary to private ones and that tax revenues are used to finance public productive services, only to find that growth is maximized at a positive, indeed sizeable, tax rate. [click to continue…]

One Book, Many Reactions

by dan_drezner on November 13, 2007

<em>One Economics, Many Recipes </em>elicited multiple reactions from this reader. As someone who’s had to review development books for a public audience over the past few years, I found Rodrik’s book to be well worth the read. As a political scientist, there were times when my wife asked me, “why are you yelling at the book?” [click to continue…]

Experimentalism and Institutional Choice

by Jack Knight on November 13, 2007

In his new book Dani Rodrik argues that the primary question facing both scholars and policy makers in the area of economic development should be “how should the institutions of economic globalization be designed to provide maximal support for national development goals?” In the course of answering this question in a challenging and highly engaging way, he continually pushes the idea that “when it comes to industrial policy, specifying the process is more important than specifying the outcome.” Quite appropriately he acknowledges that despite all of our efforts there is still a great deal that we do not know about the relationship between political and economic institutions on the one hand and economic growth on the other. And thus Rodrik recommends that we employ processes of experimentation as a way of developing a better understanding of which institutions might best facilitate growth in different contexts. In this regard he suggests that democracy might serve as a metainstitution for structuring this type of experimentation.
[click to continue…]

The Undercover Apostate

by Daniel on November 13, 2007

Rather as Galileo and Newton used to make sure to profess allegiance to the doctrines of the Holy Church, “One Economics, Many Recipes” asserts firmly in its introduction that the book is firmly in the neoclassical tradition and that although substantial use is made of case studies, the author is a believer in the catchechism of econometrics – the validity of cross-sectional regressions as a means of extracting underlying structural facts. In actual fact, however, the first cross-sectional regression does not appear until page 170, and when it does it really does throw into sharp relief the weakness of cross sectional regressions relative to case studies (it’s a regression which uses one of those Freedom House indices as if it were an unproblematic proxy for “democratic institutions”) [click to continue…]