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The point Rodrik makes that struck me the most was the difference between starting growth and maintaining it. These are two completely separate ideas, and that never really occurred to me. It's easy to ignite growth, as he says, but maintaining it is the hard part.The tricky part is that some of the policies used to start growth limit maintaining growth. This, along with other factors, leads to his assertion that development economics is not a "one-model" field. There is not one solution that will develop every nation. This seems like common sense, but that is how economists have treated developing nations for decades. Rodrik's multitude of cases help the reader realize that every nation has not responded to development measures the same way. China has grown rapidly while sub-saharan Africa has not grown at all. It will be interesting to see how development economics turns from here.


I really enjoyed Rodrik's challenge of the one-size-fits-all policy that neoclassical economics followed religiously. By using the progress of East Asia and South America to challenge the Washington Consensus Rodrik made it obvious that many previous assumptions about economic growth that I had were false. After reading the article I realized that it was foolish to think that an economy was able to be fixed by following a rigid set of plans to create growth. Rodrik really highlighted the fact that non-standard practices can lead to sound economic principles and that neoclassical economics doesn't determine the form that institutions will take. Both of those points went entirely against what I had been taught and what I believed about how to reach economic prosperity. I believed that certain things were always positive in an economy and would always lead to positive outcomes without paying attention to the surrounding economic or political situation. I completely overlooked the fact that so much more was necessary to determine whether or not an economy would begin to prosper and I never realized how hard it is to determine what will be an effective path to change. The article really challenged some of my thoughts about planning economic development.

Lilly Grella

From Rodrik’s piece, there are two main points he hopes to drive home in the reader that really stood out to me. First, he attacks the “one size fits all” idea of development, and then addresses the important concept that igniting and sustaining growth are two entirely different situations and must be analyzed through different perspectives. His use of thought experiments is extremely helpful in following his perspective of the issue. At one point he asks the reader to imagine a Western economist advising China on reform. After he runs through what he believes the Western economist would propose and the plausibility of it, he claims it might actually not be the best way of achieving development and reform in China. He knows this due to the fact that China actually took a very different approach than the one the Western economist would most likely propose. This goes back to the idea that economic policy is not a one size fits all idea. It is important to take into consideration the past and the current situation along with addressing the location in order to best propose policy for the future. Growth strategy, therefore, is flexible. It is important for people to recognize that conventional growth strategy is not always the way to go. Success is possible through other methods. Ultimately, Rodrik accepts the fact that there are many variables that must be taken into account before choosing a path towards growth and development, but acknowledges the similarities between the methods. The second idea he stresses is of the two-pronged growth strategy. The first being investment to ignite the growth and then formation of high quality, strong institutions as a sustaining measure. He recognizes the government’s role in reinforcing the growth begun by investment. Even though he acknowledges at first government and institutions are much less important than the policy in place, in the long run there is not much sustained growth without sustainable institutions.

Rachel Baer

I found Rodrik’s article both intriguing and honestly, a bit confusing. HIs article, as the title suggests, does a nice job of diving into the world of development economic growth strategies. I thought that Roderik made a strong argument backed with detailed examples, and I agree with this idea that economic policy must consider the political, cultural, and social aspects of an economy in order to achieve success in growth. As mentioned in many of the previous posts, Rodcik’s main argument is that there is not one single version of policy or strategy that works for every economy, and as we often talk about in class, “it depends.” I found this quote to be particularly helpful in understanding his point: when discussing differences in reforms in China and the West, Roderik explains, "while this particular reform program represents a logically consistent way achieving these end goals, it is not the only one that has the potential of doing so”(9). This idea reminds me of two other readings that we have discussed in class. The first was our reading in Sen’s book "Development and Freedom" where Sen argues that there is not one standardized strategy in assessing the well-being of certain areas of the world. The second is the reading from last week, Kreugman’s “Fall and Rise of Development Economics” where he argues that most economic modeling does not consider enough external factors to accurately implement policy into an economy, further enforcing this reoccurring theme we have discussed through out this term, where in almost all cases, “it depends.”


As evidenced by the consensus of almost every comment so far, Rodrick’s appeal to reason—specifically through his call for flexibility in policy creation—is extremely well argued and logical. As also noted by Cara (and perhaps others I didn’t notice), I formed a lot of connections between Rodrick’s arguments and those made in the piece we read last week about models. Yes, models are helpful, but only if we acknowledge the multitude of assumptions they make and apply them accordingly. The same can be said not only for neoclassical economic prescriptions for trade liberalization, privatization of land, etc.; but also for all of the relevant policy issues at the forefront of modern political debates. Rodrick submits “even for…relatively uncontroversial policy, it has proved difficult to generate unambiguous evidence,” which is the perfect way of articulating the reality that nearly everything (except maybe particle physics) is a shade of gray, and the best way to optimize economic policy is to develop it context. I think if politicians and policy makers kept in mind Rodrick’s idea of “non-standard practices in the service of sound economic principles,” they could come together a little more, and employ a little more case-by-case innovation, in making policies, as opposed to the rigid dogmatism that characterizes policy suggestions by our modern political parties.

As a side note, I found this article recently I think is very relevant to our course. The author’s primary position is that as a result of modern capitalism, our society is riddled with people working 40-50 hour weeks at essentially meaningless positions, a meaninglessness that is fundamentally detrimental to our society. It seems to me that, if the author’s statements ring true, economic growth in modern capitalism has actually produced unfreedom for its citizens in the form of arbitrary, non-productive jobs, or a sort of perverse anti-development (reminiscient of the protagonist from Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road). Would be interested on your insights @Professor Casey—here is the link http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/.

Charlotte Braverman

While reading Growth Strategies, I was particularly struck by the distinction Rodrik draws between stimulating economic growth and sustaining it. He emphasizes that though it may require relatively little policy action to stimulate growth and get things up and running, institutions will play a central role in sustaining growth in the long run. To these ends, however, Rodrik argues that there is no universal, one-size-fits all approach appropriate for all developing countries. I found this an interesting and well-argued point, especially in the case of China. Table three on East Asian anomalies is particularly helpful in conveying the degree to which developing countries can deviate from the institutions that are widely thought to promote economic growth. Instituting policies often dramatically different from the prevailing ideal, China is nonetheless a poster child for rapid economic growth.

Ultimately, this piece makes a strong and persuasive argument that effective growth strategies will look different in different places and successful strategies rarely “travel well” (Rodrik 19). Even with roughly the same objectives, policy will need to be tailored to the specific needs of the locale. While broader economic theory can be in agreement about the conditions most conducive to economic growth such as property rights and non-corrupt government, Rodrik goes so far as to call these standards “institution-free.” This is perhaps equally disheartening as it is encouraging. While it supports the disappointing reality that strategies that have been successful in the past might not work as well in other places, it does leave room for a wider range of non-traditional and innovative policies.

Tony Du

I really enjoyed reading Rodrik’s Growth Strategies. I found his arguments to be both compelling and provoking. The point that stuck out the most to me was Rodrik’s claim that the mechanisms behind kindling economic growth and actually sustaining that growth are different. Much of the focus of development economics has been placed on kickstarting the cycle of economic growth. The general assumption is that once this cycle of economic growth has begun, it will, by default, self-sustain. Rodrik suggests differently, pointing at the countless examples of developing countries running out of steam. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all solution is virtually nonexistent in development economics. Going back to some of the ideas we’ve discussed in class over the past few weeks, an overwhelming number of variables can impact the success of economic policy. Rodrik reinforces this idea, emphasizing the limits of reusing previous ‘model institutions’ that may have been successful elsewhere. It is important to tailor policy solutions to specific cases. Equally important is acknowledging the limitations of economic models and how successfully they translate into real world policy. I also believe we need to take caution in the ‘flexibility of institutions’. Rodrik defines good institutions as those that provide first order economic principles of property rights, contract enforcement, competitive markets, etc. However, I think it is important to extend that definition to include the provision of basic human freedoms. Yes, economic provisions are important. Nevertheless, these human freedoms are just as important, if not more so.

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