Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Possible Discussion Questions for The Next Convergence

The Next Convergence

Tyler Cowen writes: I don’t understand what the book is supposed to be signaling.” What do you think the book is “signaling”?

“Prof Spence believes, for example, that emerging market economies have insured themselves by accumulating the liabilities of western governments.” How well is this argument advanced in the text and what is your view of the argument.

Spence concludes chapter 2: "Our natural instincts to look for a villain, some human constraint that held in place . . . He seems to be saying that the belief mechanism that seems to underlie the instinct for blame is based upon a static or "snapshot" perspective that dominated historical belief systems and continues today. What is your view of this perspective?

What is your reaction to Spence’s assertion in light of his analysis of the role of government - "Sustained growth and structural change go hand in hand." (67).

I am looking forward to our discussion of chapter 11 and the role of government in supporting growth. That discussion will be, I hope, informed by the first two paragraphs on page 71 as well as the contentions outlined in the past paragraph on page 105.

Spence outlines the role that the public sector can play in the investment areas of education and infrastructure. Public education is at the center of our next book The Race Between Education and Technology

Returning to Spence's book, he finds 4 attributes of government involvement in society that are positively related to growth (106):

1. The government takes economic growth seriously.

2. The governing group has values that cause it to try to act in the interest of the vast majority of the people.

3. The government supports open trade, high levels of investment and a future orientation.

4. Economic freedom is supported by the legal and regulatory policy.

I am looking forward to both the discussion and reaction to point 4 above and an examination of Spence's chapter 17 analysis.

Spence asks, at the bottom of page 109, ". . . what could be done about failing states."(109). This question bedevils social scientists and policy makers and I wonder, after reading Douglass North, Daron Acemoglu, Michael Spence and other contemporary thinkers and reflecting on Adam Smith's analysis of the causes and conditions of the wealth of nations, what really can be done? I also wonder, to what extent, there are constructive responses to what Spence sees (third paragraph of page 113) as the common causes of poor economic performance.

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