Government, Technology, and Growth

I’m reading Bill Easterly’s The Elusive Quest for Growth for a class right now. It asks and answers the question of how to make poor countries rich. It’s a good read. I find I disagree with many details, but the core message is simple and true: people respond to incentives.

As I said, there are parts that I don’t buy into. Here’s an example:

Brazil moved more slowly into the computer revolution than necessary because of a government ban on PC imports, a misguided attempt to promote the domestic PC industry, a classic attempt by vested interests to hijack technological progress. (p. 186)

What does he conclude from this experience? “The government should subsidize technological imitation.” (ibid)

He ignores his own advice that incentives matter. As Brazil showed us, government’s incentives often hurt growth. Ask any public choice theorist.

Quibbles aside, it’s a good book. I recommend it.

And if any of my classmates read this, I’m interested in your thoughts.

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