How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the Worlds Most Dynamic Region

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Accordingly they have no chance of becoming developed. Of course, countries are required to lie through their teeth in order to implement his strategy. His hero is Park Cheung-hee, who was prepared to assure the Americans that he was aiming to enhance free markets at the same time that he actually did the opposite. But Studwell admits that there is a problem with his prescriptions, which are aimed at development.

For an advanced economy, it is quite appropriate to pursue efficiency.


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The problem is in knowing when to switch from caring for development to pursuing efficiency. Korea accidentally made the switch right, at the time of the Korean crisis in , when its policies were fortuitously controlled by the IMF. Japan failed to make the switch, as a result of which it has suffered 2 lost decades. One suspects that there may be other problems with his prescriptions besides the self-diagnosed one. Before elaborating on these, let me say what a pleasure it was to read a literate defense of land reform again, emphasizing the importance of accompanying land reform by the provision of extension services, credit, marketing, etc.

This is a reform that we have almost forgotten about in recent years, yet it is surely of vital importance.

Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region

My guess is that under current conditions it would be worth compensating fully, even though this would add to government debt. A compromise is available to countries that have previously imposed a land tax: pay compensation at the declared value of land, which is usually a gross under-estimate of its actual value. It is also a pleasure to have the logic of the industrial policies pursued in NE Asia laid out so clearly, though I am not filled with the same zeal for them as for the agricultural policies.

Buying them essentially requires a similar act of faith to that involved in signing on to the neoclassical economics he so fervently despises, and accepting that there is no other way to develop except by the dirigiste strategy that he so well outlines.

How Asia Works | Joe Studwell's blog

But is that really true? It is difficult to know what Studwell would make of Southern Europe at least outside Italy, which he considers to have developed properly and Israel. This would make sense if the cities normally sacrificed for the benefit of their hinterland, but surely they have, on the contrary, generally exploited their hinterlands, so that it is more and not less difficult for a city-state to develop. Of course, addition of Hong Kong and Singapore to the comparators is devastating to his thesis. Hong Kong developed under the purest laissez-faire that I know of; its addition to the list of comparators suggests that we look to what the countries of NE Asia have in common—competitive exchange rates, reputable educational systems, demographic transitions, and high savings—rather than to what is different between them—industrial policy—in explaining their success.

And the inclusion of Singapore in the reference set would force him to admit that part of SE Asia has already made it. His attitude to SE Asia is in fact something of a mystery. He says on p. Let me tell him: by letting firms raise money, and without the danger of strangling themselves by excessive leverage.

Review of How Asia Works

He added that this did not signify real development. In the sense in which he defines real development, as implying mastery of more advanced techniques, this may be right, but it makes one wonder about his definition. If there are alternative paths to advanced-country living standards that maybe involve less sacrifice of the current generation, why not take them? Let us suppose for the sake of the argument that Studwell is correct in his description of how NE Asia developed.

I have a feeling that he is closer to the truth than all those who tried to make out that they succeeded because they were really paragons of liberal virtue. At the same time, he does not convince me that this is the only route to development. What stands out from his description is the price that was paid for developmental success: he records how Korean businessmen were at one stage locked up p. If as I argue above there are alternative routes to high-income status and these alternatives demand fewer sacrifices en route, then one has to judge the demand that countries master ever more advanced techniques as quixotic.

Another paper that I read in Portuguese simultaneously with this book calculates the expected proportion of GDP contributed by industry over the period , the expected proportion being determined by a regression equation containing per capita income, its square, population, and population density Bonelli, Pessoa, and Matos An extract of their results shows:. None of the NE Asian countries, nor Germany for that matter, are shown as falling significantly above the expected proportion of income.

Ah, but doubtless Studwell would fault them for having the wrong type of industry! To return to the main theme, I welcome, though without much hope of his making an impact, the emphasis on land reform. But to assert that real development consists only of the process of mastering ever more advanced industrial techniques condemns most countries to remaining undeveloped. It has still to be proved that most countries cannot aspire to developed-country living standards without mastering the most advanced techniques. Unless this happens to be true, the notion of having a separate economics of development and then changing over to a concern with efficiency at some point in time, makes no sense.

Bacha and M. Baugareten, eds. Studwell, Joe. New York: Grove Press. There have been various audio and video files of my speeches posted to the web this year. This one at the Asia Society in Hong Kong is a particularly good quality recording.

How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region

It helps banks to almost get paid to lend money to specific, government-decided industries, such as steel manufacturing, shipbuilding, or high-tech electronics. Again, these rediscounted loans were both targeted to specific industries and conditioned on exports, so that no entrepreneur could get an easy rent out of them.

Comparatively, South-East Asian countries did rediscount loans to unproductive industries such as real estate , creating bubbles, bad debt, and no output or export to make cash come back. In an incredible paragraph of How Asia Works, the author shows that the stock exchange of Kuala Lumpur some days exceeded the New York Stock Exchange , as a lot of money from the government wound up there for short term gains as it was not directed to long-term, industrial investments.

As a former student of the Ecole de Guerre Economique in Paris, where we learn to read the world through the eyes of the economic interest and warfare of nations , this book is a perfect case study of why deregulated capitalism can not work to develop a strong economy. Joe Studwell stresses that deregulation is indeed the ultimate weapon of winning economies. If you have pulled out your population from poverty through agriculture, created a strong manufacturing economy in a few decades, and kept finance aligned with your national interest, then, and only then, does it make sense to push for deregulation, especially deregulation of other countries where your companies would then have more probability to dominate the local market.

The books also shows a sad and wide gap between an industrious and talented North-East Asia and a disorganised, corrupt and unmanageable South-East Asia. This is truly terrible because anyone can see the results today, in , of this growing gap between the two parts of East Asia: the North is eating the South, economically, politically. At a political level, How Asia Works is a clear advocate of a strong, directed economic policy for emerging markets , at least to optimise the agriculture, turn part of the workforce into manufacturers and then develop an efficient financial system to make it work for the long-run.

Emerging markets need, just like the West need a few decades ago, to protect the industries they want to develop. And to hold the direction for decades. In a nutshell, How Asia Works is a detailed history of how countries in an extremely populous and dynamic place of the world are competing for economic power.

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The details, depth in historical research, and even road-trips Joe Studwell takes to have a local view of the topic, makes it a brilliant story. It really helps to give a broader view of a big chunk of the world and how the last few decades can explain what is happening now. The graphs are also quite informative. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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