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Dani Rodrik

Dani Rodrik

I am an economist, and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. My most recent book is Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton, 2015). I was born and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. I still follow Turkish politics very closely, as you will find out if you spend any time with this blog.

Articles by Dani Rodrik

Reclaiming Community

8 days ago

Stable families, good jobs, strong schools, abundant and safe public spaces, and pride in local cultures and history – these are the essential elements of prosperous societies. Neither global markets nor the nation-state can adequately supply them, and sometimes markets and states undermine them.

CAMBRIDGE – Economics teaches that the measure of an individual’s wellbeing is the quantity and variety of goods he or she can consume. Consumption possibilities are in turn maximized by providing firms with the freedom they need to take advantage of new technologies, the division of labor, economies of scale, and mobility. Consumption is the goal; production is the means to it. Markets, rather than communities, are the unit and object of analysis.

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Will New Technologies Help or Harm Developing Countries?

October 8, 2018

Trade and technology present an opportunity when they are able to leverage existing capabilities, and thereby provide a more direct and reliable path to development. When they demand complementary and costly investments, they are no longer a shortcut around traditional manufacturing-led development.

CAMBRIDGE – New technologies reduce the prices of goods and services to which they are applied. They also lead to the creation of new products. Consumers benefit from these improvements, regardless of whether they live in rich or poor countries.

NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

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Mobile phones are a clear example of the deep impact of some new technologies. In a clear

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Can Trade Agreements Be a Friend to Labor?

September 14, 2018

To date, labor clauses in trade agreements have remained a fig leaf, neither raising labor standards abroad nor protecting them at home. Real change would require a significantly different approach, including how trade agreements uphold and enforce workers’ rights.

CAMBRIDGE – Labor advocates have long complained that international trade agreements are driven by corporate agendas and pay little attention to the interests of working people. The preamble of the World Trade Organization Agreement mentions the objective of “full employment,” but otherwise labor standards remain outside the scope of the multilateral trade regime. The only exception is a clause, left over from the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the precursor to the

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Economists’ statement in support of Atif Mian

September 11, 2018

It is with dismay that I learned recently that Princeton’s Atif Mian, one of the greatest scholars on finance and macroeconomics I know, was disinvited from Pakistan’s Economic Advisory Council because of his religious beliefs. See here and here for more background.
Timur Kuran and I have put together a statement, along with many friends who support Atif. The statement is below. We already have more than 90 signatories, including 26 economists working in Pakistan and 8 Nobel Prize winners. Any academic economist wishing to add his/her name to the list of signatories should send Timur Kuran or me a note.
Economists’ Statement in Support of Atif Mian
We, the undersigned economists, believe that Atif Mian would be a fantastic addition to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) of Pakistan.

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No to Academic Normalization of Trump

August 7, 2018

Those who have served the current US president are necessarily tainted by the experience. While they should not be barred from speaking at universities, they should be accorded none of the trappings of institutional esteem such as fellowships, named lectures, and keynote speeches.

CAMBRIDGE – The University of Virginia recently faced a storm of protest after its Miller Center of Public Affairs appointed President Donald Trump’s former Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, to a one-year position as Senior Fellow. Two faculty members severed ties with the center, and a petition to reverse the decision has gathered nearly 4,000 signatures. A similar protest erupted at my home institution last year, when Corey

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How To Avoid a Trade War

July 10, 2018

Economists typically argue against focusing excessively on the losers from freer trade, and they decry the tendency to overlook the beneficiaries on the export side. They should not be prone to the same fallacy now, by ignoring that US protectionism surely will generate some beneficiaries as well in other countries.

CAMBRIDGE – Defying common sense as well as business and financial elites, US President Donald Trump seems to relish the prospect of a trade war. On July 6, his latest trade restrictions – 25% tariffs on about $34 billion of Chinese imports – took effect. They were promptly met by retaliatory tariffs on an equivalent volume of US exports to the Chinese market. Trump has threatened further measures against China,

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My preface to Santiago Levy’s Book: Under-Rewarded Efforts — The Elusive Quest for Prosperity in Mexico

June 25, 2018

A few years ago as I was finishing up my book Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton 2015), I realized that the manuscript contained a serious omission. I had written at length about how and why economists misuse the powerful tools of their discipline, but had said little about the successes. So I decided I would open the book with three vignettes of economics at its best. Each vignette would have its hero: an economist who combined economic models with real-world judgement to make life better for lots of people. 
Santiago Levy was one of the three heroes I chose. (The names of the other two heroes will let the reader gauge how demanding was the standard I applied: John Maynard Keynes and William Vickrey.) Santiago was the principal force behind the

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How Democratic Is the Euro?

June 11, 2018

If the European Union is to remain viable and democratic at the same time, policymakers will have to pay closer attention to the demanding requirements of delegating decisions to unelected bodies. They should promote such a delegation of sovereignty only when it truly enhances the long-term performance of their democracies.

SAN SERVOLO, ITALY – When Italy’s president recently vetoed the appointment of the Euroskeptic Paolo Savona as finance minister in the government proposed by the Five Star Movement-League party alliance, did he safeguard or undermine his country’s democracy? Beyond constitutional strictures specific to the Italian context, the question goes to the heart of democratic legitimacy. The difficult issues it

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The Double Standard of America’s China Trade Policy

May 10, 2018

Many liberal commentators in the US think that Donald Trump is right to confront China over its trade tactics, and object only to his methods. Yet Trump’s trade agenda is driven by a narrow mercantilism that privileges the interests of US corporations above those of all others.
CAMBRIDGE – A high-profile United States trade delegation appears to have returned empty-handed from its mission in China. The result is hardly a surprise, given the scale and one-sided nature of the US demands. The Americans pushed for a wholesale remaking of China’s industrial policies and intellectual property rules, while asking China’s government to refrain from any action against Trump’s proposed unilateral tariffs against Chinese exports.

EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images

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What’s Been Stopping the Left?

April 10, 2018

If progressive political parties had pursued a bolder agenda in the face of widening inequality and deepening economic anxiety, perhaps the rise of right-wing, nativist political movements might have been averted. So why didn’t they?
CAMBRIDGE – Why were democratic political systems not responsive early enough to the grievances that autocratic populists have successfully exploited – inequality and economic anxiety, decline of perceived social status, the chasm between elites and ordinary citizens? Had political parties, particularly of the center left, pursued a bolder agenda, perhaps the rise of right-wing, nativist political movements might have been averted.

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Trump’s Trade Gimmickry

March 9, 2018

The imbalances and inequities generated by the global economy cannot be tackled by protecting a few politically well-connected industries, using manifestly ridiculous national security considerations as an excuse. Such protectionism is a gimmick, not a serious agenda for trade reform.
CAMBRIDGE – US President Donald Trump’s bark on trade policy has so far been far worse than his bite. But this may be changing. In January, he raised tariffs on imported washing machines and solar cells. Now, he has ordered steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum (25% and 10%, respectively), basing the move on a rarely used national-security exception to World Trade Organization rules.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s

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The Double Threat to Liberal Democracy

February 13, 2018

Illiberal democracy – or populism – is not the only political menace confronting Western countries. Liberal democracy is also being undermined by a tendency to emphasize “liberal” at the expense of “democracy.”
CAMBRIDGE – The crisis of liberal democracy is roundly decried today. Donald Trump’s presidency, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the electoral rise of other populists in Europe have underscored the threat posed by “illiberal democracy” – a kind of authoritarian politics featuring popular elections but little respect for the rule of law or the rights of minorities.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what

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Can Economic Populism Preempt Political Populism?

January 30, 2018

Harvard University Professor Dani Rodrik argues that while political populism stifles pluralism and undermines liberal democratic norms, economic populism is occasionally necessary. In some cases, it may even help forestall the arrival of its more dangerous cousin.

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More on distinguishing ideas and interests — an exchange with Peter Hall

January 19, 2018

My recent post on ideas versus interests elicited some comments from Peter Hall, my Harvard colleague who has done probably more thinking on this issue than any other scholar I know. With his permission, I am attaching these comments below, along with the brief subsequent exchange we have had.
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Dani,
A few quick thoughts inspired by your recent blog post on ideas and interests.  As you know, this is a topic that has long interested me.  These are rather cryptic thoughts (ars longa, vitae brevis) but I pass them along in case they are stimulating.
You are, of course, right to observe that interests are always interpreted (by ideas), i.e. they do not arise unambiguously from the material world.  And I think you are on the right track when you contrast the

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Has Global Finance Reformed Itself More Than It Appears?

January 18, 2018

The answer is yes, according to Ilene Grabel in her fascinating new book When Things Don’t Fall Apart. I wrote a preface for the book, which is reproduced below. It explains why I liked the book so much.
It happens only rarely and is all the more pleasurable because of it. You pick up a manuscript that fundamentally changes the way you look at certain things. This is one such book. Ilene Grabel has produced a daring and delightful reinterpretation of developments in global finance since the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998.
The book addresses, and resolves, a long-standing puzzle: Why has our present model of financial globalization been so resilient, despite an abysmal track record that includes the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression, recurrent sovereign

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Telling interests and ideas apart

January 16, 2018

A long standing debate in the social sciences is whether behavior is driven by “interests” or “ideas.” The debate is central in political science, where it plays out as an argument between realists and constructivists. It is less well articulated in economics, to the discipline’s detriment. (See here for my thoughts on what economists would gain by taking the role of ideas seriously.)
As constructivists like to point out, interests are “congealed ideas.” Or to put it differently, we don’t have interests; we have ideas about what our interests are. Perhaps it’s all about interests in the short run and it’s all about ideas in the long-run.     
But if so, is there an analytically meaningful distinction between ideas and interests? And could we ever distinguish empirically between cases

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My Twitter account has been hacked

January 12, 2018

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In Defense of Economic Populism

January 9, 2018

Populists’ aversion to institutional restraints extends to the economy, where they oppose obstacles placed in their way by autonomous regulatory agencies, independent central banks, and global trade rules. But while populism in the political domain is almost always harmful, economic populism can sometimes be justified.
CAMBRIDGE – Populists abhor restraints on the political executive. Since they claim to represent “the people” writ large, they regard limits on their exercise of power as necessarily undermining the popular will. Such constraints can only serve the “enemies of the people” – minorities and foreigners (for right-wing populists) or financial elites (in the case of left-wing populists).

The Year Ahead 2018

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The Economics Debate, again and again

December 21, 2017

The debate on the economics profession – its alleged ills and failings — abates at times, but never ends. A recent piece in The Guardian taking the profession to task for its lack of reform has prompted a response from a group of economists. I thought it was time to re-up my own views on this debate, in the form of two sets of ten commandments. The first set is directed at economists, and the second to non-economists.   

Ten commandments for economists

1.      Economics is a collection of models; cherish their diversity.

2.      It’s a model, not the model.

3.      Make your model simple enough to isolate specific causes and how they work, but not so simple that it leaves out key interactions among causes.

4.      Unrealistic assumptions are OK; unrealistic

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Does Europe Really Need Fiscal and Political Union?

December 11, 2017

There is a growing sense in Europe, among conservatives and progressives alike, that fiscal and eventual political union is necessary to maintain the euro without damaging economic performance or democratic values. But there is also an alternative, much less ambitious view, according to which only banking union is needed.
CAMBRIDGE – Greece’s combative former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, and his nemesis, former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, were at loggerheads on Greek debt throughout Varoufakis’s term in office. But they were in full agreement when it came to the central question of the eurozone’s future. Monetary union required political union. No middle way was possible.

The Year Ahead 2018

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How to Combat Populist Demagogues

November 13, 2017

We will never know whether greater honesty on the part of mainstream politicians and technocrats would have spared us the rise of nativist demagogues like Donald Trump in the US or Marine Le Pen in France. What is clear is that lack of candor in the past has come at a steep price.
CAMBRIDGE – At a recent conference I attended, I was seated next to a prominent American trade policy expert. We began to talk about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump has blamed for American workers’ woes and is trying to renegotiate. “I never thought NAFTA was a big deal,” the economist said.

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Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Stefan Rousseau/PA/Getty Images

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Taking a Crack at Neoliberalism

November 8, 2017

Here is the back story for my new piece “Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism,” just out in the Boston Review.
I have never been a fan of the term “neoliberal.” It has never been quite clear what it means. Nor is it obvious who today’s neoliberals are. Thatcher, Reagan, Pinochet in their day, yes. But today?
Nevertheless, the term is widely used by its many critics to condemn in quite broad brush terms a certain way of thinking of the role of the market in society. There are more careful exegeses that give neoliberalism a more precise meaning and a specific historical trajectory (see here and here). But in public discourse the term has become a loose cannon – or to use perhaps a more appropriate metaphor — a spray gun directed at one’s intellectual opponents.
I was happy to keep

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Growth Without Industrialization?

October 10, 2017

Low-income African countries can sustain moderate rates of productivity growth into the future, on the back of steady improvements in human capital and governance. But the evidence suggests that, without manufacturing gains, the growth rates brought about recently by rapid structural change are exceptional and may not last.
CAMBRIDGE – Despite low world prices for the commodities on which they tend to depend, many of the world’s poorest economies have been doing well. Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth has slowed precipitously since 2015, but this reflects specific problems in three of its largest economies (Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa). Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Rwanda are all projected to achieve growth of 6% or higher this

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Macron’s Labor Gambit

September 7, 2017

CAMBRIDGE –At the end of August, French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled the labor-market overhaul that will make or break his presidency – and may well determine the future of the eurozone. His goal is to bring down France’s stubbornly high rate of unemployment, just a shade below 10%, and energize an economy that badly needs a kick-start.

Federico Parra/Getty Images

Nur Photo/Getty Images

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Getty Images

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Labor reform has long been on France’s agenda. Practically every French administration in recent memory has tried to rewrite the country’s gargantuan labor code, typically failing in the face of trade union protests. Macron makes no bones about what he is up

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Macron’s Labor Gambit

September 7, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron’s entourage has been wisely telling anyone who will listen not to expect too much from the proposed new labor code. Indeed, the economics of the reforms suggest that they are unlikely to make a big difference on their own.
CAMBRIDGE –At the end of August, French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled the labor-market overhaul that will make or break his presidency – and may well determine the future of the eurozone. His goal is to bring down France’s stubbornly high rate of unemployment, just a shade below 10%, and energize an economy that badly needs a kick-start.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Etienne Laurent/Getty Images

Pacific Press/Getty Images

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The G20’s Misguided Globalism

July 6, 2017

HAMBURG – This year’s G20 summit in Hamburg promises to be among the more interesting in recent years. For one thing, US President Donald Trump, who treats multilateralism and international cooperation with cherished disdain, will be attending for the first time.

Trump comes to Hamburg having already walked out of one of the key commitments from last year’s summit – to join the Paris climate agreement “as soon as possible.” And he will not have much enthusiasm for these meetings’ habitual exhortation to foreswear protectionism or provide greater assistance to refugees.

Moreover, the Hamburg summit follows two G20 annual meetings in authoritarian countries – Turkey in 2015 and China in 2016 – where protests could be stifled. This year’s summit promises to be an occasion

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Can Macron Pull it Off?

May 9, 2017

CAMBRIDGE – Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen was much-needed good news for anyone who favors open, liberal democratic societies over their nativist, xenophobic counterparts. But the battle against right-wing populism is far from won.

Le Pen received more than a third of the second-round vote, even though only one party other than her own National Front – Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s small Debout la France – gave her any backing. And turnout was apparently sharply down from previous presidential elections, indicating a large number of disaffected voters. If Macron fails during the next five years, Le Pen will be back with a vengeance, and nativist populists will gain strength in Europe and elsewhere.

As a candidate, Macron was helped in this age of

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Why Did So Many Cheer Turkey’s Democracy While It Was Dying?

April 25, 2017

Claire Berlinski’s excellent account of the Western (and domestic) observers who cheered on as Turkey was sliding into authoritarianism reminds me of a point I long wanted to make.
There was in Erdogan’s early years some reason to be confused as to what was going on. Was he a Muslim democrat who was essentially the Turkish equivalent of a European Christian Democrat? Or was he an authoritarian at heart who would resort to repression as soon as he had sufficient control?
We know the answer now. But at the time there was perhaps what an economist would call an “observational equivalence” between the two scenarios.
In his early years, Erdogan was not sufficiently secure in power. Remember that as late as 2008, his party barely escaped closure thanks to a very narrow constitutional court decision. The first five years or so of his coming to power were years of transition, from the secular elites to the AKP-Gulenist alliance. During the transition, Erdogan naturally sought allies among the liberals and the West. But beyond that, the transition opened up space for political discussion and debate in ways that had long escaped the country. The old guard’s power was weakening while Erdogan had not yet consolidated his power. The former could not put the lid on the new developments, while the latter was not strong enough (yet) to crush all potential opposition.

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Prudential regulation, capital controls, and second-best

April 20, 2017

A usual argument against the use of capital controls as a prudential measure is that it is always better to tackle problems at their source rather than trying to deal with symptoms.  This is called the principle of economic targeting in Economics, one of the discipline’s most powerful teachings. The problem with indirect remedies is that they create problems themselves, “by-product distortions” in Econ-speak. With capital controls, those would be corruption and the discouragement of trade and other flows that are not necessarily a problem.
Hyun Song Shin essentially relies on this principle when he argues against capital controls (in a speech yesterday in Washington, DC):

The lesson is to distinguish underlying causes from outward symptoms. Yes, the 2008 financial crisis was in large part a cross-border phenomenon, but focusing on capital flows confuses the symptoms (capital flows) from the underlying causes (excess leverage and funding risk). If the problem is excessive bank leverage and funding risk, then address these risks directly with traditional microprudential, or regulatory tools.

This argument always reminds me of opponents’ argument about why gun controls are not needed: “it’s not guns that kill people; it’s people.” The implication is that we should target the criminals and not the guns.

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