Chris Blattman featured yesterday the new paper by Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg, How Deep are the Roots of Economic Development?

The paper is a great survey of the exploding literature linking today’s development outcomes to ancient roots. ( I denote the survey as “great” based on the usual criteria: frequency of citation of my own research.)

The Spolaore and Wacziarg paper also allows yet another angle on the debate of the last few days on China’s rise. China’s middle income position today at least partially reflects long-run factors: two favorable and one unfavorable . The two favorable historical factors are very long experience with (1) technology and (2) organized statehood. The unfavorable factor (3) is a long history of autocracy and violence.

China’s remarkable rise in the last 3 decades could just be the intersection of favorable historical factors (1) and (2) with increased globalization. In other words, China’s miracle could just be overcoming previous miserable under-performance relative to its own long-run potential. Further rise could then require finally changing the adverse factor (3):  autocracy.

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