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January 09, 2013

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Martcb007

Dr Rodrik,
Having read both articles, there are a few points I'd ask you to adress.
First, A&R believe state capitalism will be incapable of sustained economic growth, but only catch up growth. It seems their hypothesis is that state capitalism is decreasingly effective as a country develops. Would you consider mercantilism a viable alternative for the developed countries as well?
Second, were the previous answer to be positive, it still seems like mercantilism is a good option when only a few countries follow this model. What if, however, mercantilist practices were the norm?
My last comment is that the difference in the conclusions of both articles is, in part, a question of semantics. Your definition of mercantilism is that of an alliance between private and public sectors; meanwhile, R&A rely on a self-interested government to express their point.
Whatever the case, I found both pieces most enlightening. Keep up the good work.

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Martcb007,

If you have been following Prof. Rodrik's works, you will know his answer to your first question already: "state capitalism" does have diminishing returns. According to the second-best model, or "mercantilism" as it is called in this article, which Prof. Rodirk is a strong advocate of, the state is supposed to initiate a new round of reform to overcome the institutional limits.

Industrial policy or whatever names we want to call it, does allow developing economies to catch up by handing out rents; this is predicted by the big push model as well. The question is what comes next and how to prevent it from turning into crony capitalism or a kleptocracy. We don't even need to talk about China; Japan and Korea are still far from being the liberal, transparent and deliberative democracy that we come to admire.

The problem is not so much with the economics as with the politics. Politically, there is no or very little incentive for a new round of political and democratic reform, when the ruling party can reap so much benefit from and with the power of the state.

As for your second question, developed countries do practice mercantilism in some capacity. The internet is the outcome of that (A&R is wrong about state capitalism is all about getting power). If that is extended to trade more generally, my guess would be intrastate or regional trade will replace part of the international trade. Mayhaps it will not be a bad thing.

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it still seems like mercantilism is a good option when only a few countries follow this model.

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In Asia,it is really that the mercantilist model can be derided as state capitalism or cronyism.
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Very interesting article, really things are getting complicated in the countries day by day.

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