viernes, 22 de febrero de 2008

Entrevista al economista Dani Rodrik


Comparto con ustedes una gran entrevista al economista Dani Rodrik, que encontré en www.webpondo.org. En ella se abordan temas como globalización, políticas industriales, propiedad intellectual, desarrollo económico, instituciones, entre otros.

Se las recomiendo.

A continuación posteo una de las preguntas de la entrevista:

With respect to this same paper1 we are referring to, there was a point that called our attention about it and it’s the fact that you say that the very process of economic development has to do a lot with experimentation and, in that sense, there is some active policy intervention that is necessary. And there are two points with respect to this conclusion which calls our attention. The first one is that you say that there was some kind of more optimal mix in that policy intervention in Asia in terms of “carrots and sticks” (in your terms) and we would like you to explain a bit about that combination. And also, if you are calling for active policy intervention as a consequence of the very process of economic development, what about the imperfections or the potential problems that economists so much worry about in the public sector?

When I talk about experimentation, I have two sorts of experimentation that I have in mind, and I think both are equally important. One, and what you are referring to in the first part of your question, is experimentation in the productive sphere. The other is institutional experimentation. The former is the process of figuring out where your comparative advantage lies, figuring out what you can produce profitably, and this is an activity that’s by and large undertaken by the private sector. This is not an area for the public sector to be doing. But, what I do think is that because this process of experimentation in the productive sphere (what Ricardo Hausmann, my coauthor, and I call “self-discovery”) is a process which is rife with externalities and informational shortcomings, it is also one area where the government potentially has a role to play. And we summarize that role by way of this combination of “carrot and stick” policies. You need the carrot policies so that there is a positive incentive for private entrepreneurs, private investors, to start production and investments in non-traditional activities. That requires a positive inducement. It is not generally going to be undertaken in optimal amounts simply through free market forces, because this is a process which provides tremendous social externalities. The first investor in Colombia that discovered that cut flowers could be profitably exported to the United States, created tremendous social value. And, in fact, this innovation very rapidly dissipated itself to Colombia with many, many more entrepreneurs coming and starting to produce. Economic development is fundamentally a process of this kind where at least early on you need sufficient incentives in place for this investment in new activities to take place. That’s the carrot part of the
policy.

I think the stick part, and I think that’s closely related to the doubts you were raising about the possibilities of useful intervention, the stick part of the policy has to do with ensuring that such incentive policies do not deteriorate into effectively just protecting long. I think generally economists have said that governments cannot do this. I think when economists say that governments cannot do this, they are really, for the most part, really doing amateur political science. Because there is really very little systematic analysis of when and how, or if at all, governments have the capacity to do interventions of this sort.

I think it’s clear that this is not something you can recommend across the board. Typically, you have to look for parts of the government where there is bureaucratic competence, where there is professional expertise with certain amount of autonomy. And I think, where you have those, programs like these can be undertaken. It will never look the same way from one country to another. In some country it might be a public private venture fund; in another country it might be an export processing zone; in a third country it might be tax incentives or investments in new areas. Particularly, this will depend a lot on where the capacity in the system, in the public sector, is really located. But I think it’s just empirically not true that governments cannot do this, or that any attempt to do this is necessarily
doomed to failure.

And I should emphasize one more thing: often people react to such ideas by saying, “the government can never pick winners”. The argument is not that the government has the capacity to pick winners; it is a much weaker argument that says, “the government does not have the capacity to pick winners, often it will pick losers”, but, what we need to do is design institutions that at least give the government the capacity to let go of the losers.