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In explaining poverty I prefer being a materialist. In getting this politico-socio-economic unit out of poverty I prefer not being overly deterministic (i.e. we can still make choices that are not necessarily constrained by the economic).
Here is Dani Rodrik, an author I have only read, not heard or seen, delivering a short presentation that attempts to answer this question. I am surprised at how unassuming the man is. And how humble.
In the end its simple. Get the economics and politics right. And culture? Ah. Its probably that sticky, gooey glue that is lodged in between.
1. Global income distribution
2. Decomposing global income inequalities to within - and between-countries components
3. Understanding why some countries produce so much more output per worker than others
"Would you rather be rich in a poor country or poor in a rich country?"
- Most of Rodrik's students would rather be rich in a poor country. But in actuality, the poor in a rich country are better off.
- World inequality has gone from almost exclusively a "within" country to mostly "an "across" country phenomena.
- What produces GDP per worker?
a) factor endowments - natural resources, people
b) "efficiency factor" - how these endowments are organised in a society
a+b = total factor productivity
What accounts for the differences across countries? Factor endowments or Efficiency?
Illustration: Turkey vs. US factor productivity. Turkish factor productivity is only 1/3 of US. Why?
- Economic Dualism in Turkey: a modern industrial sector (high productivity) and a traditional agricultural sector (low productivity)
What are the social and structural bottlenecks that keep the two sectors from closing the gap in productivity?
a) Poor institutional environment - government effectiveness, political stability, over-all, regulatory mechanisms, "rule of law" (i.e. predictable, consistent) (the organisation of society)
b) Macroeconomic instability and overvalued currency - an overvalued currency tends to lower labour productivity. An environment with a competitive (i.e. low) currency value tends to move labour and capital to the more productive parts of the economy.
c) "Innovation" doesn't necessarily mean heavy investments in R&D. Innovation in a middle income country is success in removing the impediments to the structural transformation of the country.
What needs to be done is to organise society in a such a way that maximises wealth production per person - this is the economic part. How to do this 'organisation' is fundamentally political and bounded by our culture.
Oh. And I will take Rodrik's explanation over Jose's any day.