One should have expected a reply though was amazingly quick. I had pointed to Subramanian’s review of the development tome Why nations fail. In this Subramanian said India and CHina are a puzzle in this entire development exercise. India has inclusive political institutions but growth remains poor. China has extractive political institutions but has a superb growth record in the last 30 years. How does this fit in with WNF claims that inclusive political instis lead to economic development?
The authors have replied to the criticism.
Thoughtful reviews deserve some (hopefully equally thoughtful) responses. Subramanian is certainly right to draw attention to China and India. But perhaps his review is too brief to have done justice to our theory and its implications on these topics — so much so that he actually omits any mention of the extensive discussion of China and extractive growth in the book.
They start discussing China but I start from India. There have been couple of replies from the duo on China’s puzzle but nothing at all on India.
We go to pains in the book to emphasize that electoral democracy isn’t the same as inclusive political institutions. This becomes particularly binding when it comes to India. India has been democratic since its independence, but in the same way that regular elections since 1929 don’t make Mexico under PRI control an inclusive society, Congress-dominated democratic politics of India doesn’t make India inclusive. Perhaps it’s then no surprise that major economic reforms in India started when the Congress Party faced serious political competition. In fact, the quality of democracy in India remains very low.
Politics has not only been dominated by the Congress party but continues to be highly patrimonial, and as we have been discussing recently, this sort of patrimonialism militates against the provision of public goods. Recent research by Toke Aidt, Miriam Golden and Devesh Tiwari (“Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature”) shows there are other very problematic aspects of the Indian democratic system: a quarter of the members of the Lok Sabha, the Indian legislature, have faced criminal charges, but alarmingly, such politicians are more likely to be re-elected than those without criminal charges, reflecting the fact that Indian democracy is far from being an inclusive ideal.
What’s more, blaming India’s poverty on its democratic recent past, as Subramanian seems to do, is probably more than a little unfair. After all, India has been growing since independence even if the growth rate was disappointing for the first three decades, and it seems to have largely stagnated during British colonialism as Tirthankar Roy shows in The Economic History of India, 1857-1947.
Superb stuff..What most have been saying for a while. Dejure inclusive institutions do not mean de fecto inclusive developments.
Moreover, why so little on India?
In contrast to China, there is much less in Why Nations Fail about India, mostly because of space limitations. Be that as it may, Subramanian’s summary that our theory suggests India should be prosperous isn’t quite right.
Hope there is a full book on India in future..
Now on China…
First, our theory isn’t that political institutions directly determine economic prosperity. Rather, we claim that economic institutions determine economic prosperity, and explain why the link is between inclusive economic institutions and sustained economic growth — not necessarily short-run economic growth. We then argue that inclusive economic institutions can only survive in the long run if they are supported by inclusive political institutions. On the way, we provide explanations and examples for why for extended periods of time economic institutions with fairly important inclusive elements can coexist with extractive political institutions. This is all brought together under our discussion of extractive growth under the auspices of extractive political institutions (see Chapter 5).
So China story is basically a result of inclusive economic institutions. This has led to higher growth. And where did these inclusive economic institutions emerge from? Well it is politics again and the perspective is very different:
We also noted, in contrast to the standard accounts of Chinese economic reforms, that these didn’t have their origins in some clever planning by Chinese leaders but in political struggles within the Politburo pitting Deng Xiaoping against the Gang of Four. It was once again politics — not clever planning, design or economic advice — driving economics. In fact, the recent thought-provoking book by Victor Nee and Sonja Opper,Capitalism from Below convincingly argues that early reforms were neither instituted by the party nor were they outcomes of experimentation, but resulted from the party catching up with what had been going on on the ground given the political vacuum and crisis wrought by the Cultural Revolution.
They point out that before Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, privately-led experiments with production for the market and ending collective incentives had started. For example, in Anhui province, peasant households had already dissolved communes and collectives before any reforms, and had started a land-lease system. They suggest it was this sort of development that forced the hand of Deng Xiaoping and Communist Party elites to start loosening of central planning and collectivization. Whether Nee and Opper’s interpretation is correct or not, what seems clear is that there was a radical change in economic institutions in China and most likely this resulted from a variety of political factors — rather than from Deng Xiaoping’s farsighted genius as the hagiographic biography of Deng, Deng Xiaoping, by Ezra Vogel suggests.
However for growth to be sustainable, there is a need for inclusive political institutions.
So when economic institutions take steps towards greater inclusivity — which has happened many times in history and is exactly what happened in China starting in 1978 — this can usher a rapid period of economic growth. Where political institutions come in is that inclusive economic institutions can emerge and encourage growth in the short run but cannot survive in the long run under extractive political institutions. It is for this reason that the rapid growth of China over the last three decades isn’t an exception to our theory. If China manages to continue to grow for several more decades and reach levels of income per capita comparable to those of the United States or Germany while still austerely authoritarian and politically extractive, that would be an exception to our theory. This is exactly what we argue in Chapter 15 as well as pointing out why the transition from extractive to more inclusive political institutions in China will be difficult.
People have question how China grew despite such extractive political instis, AR duo say wait for some more years. 30 years is not as long a time for sustained growth….
Even in this blogpost, focus remains on China :-(