Those of you who think I use this blog to blog my own horn way too much, read no further. (If not in my own blog, where else? But still...) But I was particularly pleased to read John Kay's review of my One Economics, Many Recipes in Prospect magazine (is this the same John Kay as the FT columnist John Kay?).
You need a subscription to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:
[Rodrik's] thesis leaves little role for the breastbeating of moralists who want to hold colonialism, multinationals or unfair trading arrangements responsible for third world poverty. Countries find and create their own destinies. Nor does he have time for the visiting expert with a chequebook and a sense of mission. Rodrik's heroes are not the framers of the millennium development goals, but the people who establish cut-flower nurseries in Colombia, football production lines in Pakistan and bicycle factories in Taiwan. Development, he argues, is a process of self-discovery.
At various points, Rodrik is anxious to say, "I am a mainstream economist." His credo is that "social phenomena can best be understood by considering them to be an aggregation of purposeful behaviour by individuals interacting with each other and acting under the constraints that their environment imposes." There is certainly truth in the claim that this belief is at the core of neo-classical economics. But neoclassical economics, as typically practised, imposes a particular concept of rationality on that description-in terms of the consistent pursuit of individualist goals-and makes a variety of other assumptions about the nature of markets and of property rights. These assumptions preclude a proper examination of the institutional constraints and uncertain environment which are such an important part of Rodrik's schema.
But then so much the worse for the mainstream.... One Economics, Many Recipes is also a model of how applied economics should be done. The book uses models without falling into the trap of believing that any particular model offers a true representation of the world, or that policy conclusions can be derived algebraically. Rodrik uses data, but sceptically: it seems obvious that a data set which rates Canada worst and Rwanda near-best for absence of ethnic fragmentation has something wrong with it, and it is reassuring (though much less common than you might hope) to have an author who notices.
As a result, this book can identify no panaceas and, indeed, offers only a few modest pointers to development. But how to make poor countries rich is the toughest problem in economics, and only a less thoughtful author than Rodrik would offer more confident solutions.
I find it somewhat curious that the book has ben reviewed in a number of British publications by now (besides the one above, check the reviews in the New Statesman or in Times Higher Education). By contrast, no reviews have appeared in similar American publications as far as I can tell. My editors at Princeton University Press should take note...