Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Cities, engines of innovation

says Edward Glaeser. Another version which may need subscription is in Scientific American. Paul Romer has been talking about charter cities. He recently ties it up with Pritchett criteria discussed here by Tyler Cowen. Romer's post Urbanization passes the Pritchett Test actually muddies the issues, I think. He first belittles micro-initiatives:
"In a characteristically incisive blog post, Lant expresses skepticism about the value of micro-initiatives that are being tried as strategies for encouraging economic development because they are easy to evaluate rather than because experience suggests that they have worked at a scale that is comparable to the problem that policy should address.
He recalls his experience as a member of a team with members from many developed countries that was evaluating a program in India that financed women’s self-help groups. A woman from West Bengal who had answered their questions said to the team, “You all are from countries that are much richer and doing much better than our country so your country’s women’s self-help groups must also be much better, tell us how women’s self-help groups work in your country.” Quoting now from Lant’s account:
We all looked at each other blankly as none of us had any idea whether there even were at any time in our countries’ history such a thing as “women’s self-help groups” … (much less government program for promoting them). We also had no idea how to explain that, yes, all of our countries are now developed but no, all of our countries did this without a major role from women’s self-help groups at any time (or if there were a role we development experts were collectively ignorant of it), but yes, women’s self-help groups promote development.'
There are many criticisms of this in the comments of the discussion in Economist's View . From my comment there: "In "The causes of progress" by Todd: There are two maps of Europe on pages 32-33; the first about countries with national product per capita exceeding $10,000 in 1979 and age at marriage of women over 27 around 1840.The two are essentially identical. 
But Todd's idea of progress is more general than that of Pritchett. He is not explicit about what he means by progress. In "The explanation of ideology", he hints "...urbanization, industrialization and the spread of literacy, in short by modernization...". In "The Causes of progress""This is a cultural development, beyond the realm of the material. Cultural development first shows up as a rise in the rate of literacy....In the second stage, a fall in the rates of mortality and fertility follows the rise of literacy. Man thus takes control of his immediate biological environment. Only in the third stage does development appear as an increase in the production of industrial goods or, more generally, material wealth". "
I think Paul Romer's point is about quick economic development and in one of his earlier posts, he talks of Shenzhen "But it seems clear to me that the fundamental motivation in establishing the four initial special zones, of which Shenzhen was the most successful, was to achieve local reform quickly in hopes that this would induce reform throughout China. To an overwhelming degree, the measures implemented in Shenzhen pass my two tests for reform: they have been adopted as permanent policies and they have spread to the rest of China." 

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