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Why Are There Rich and Poor Countries? Symmetry-Breaking in the World Economy

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  • Kiminori Matsuyama

Abstract

To explain cross-country differences in economic performance, the economics of coordination failures typically portrays each country in a closed economy model with multiple equilibria and then argues that the poor countries are in an equilibrium inferior to those achieved by the rich. This approach cannot tell us anything about the degree of inequality in the world economy. A more satisfactory approach would be to build a world economy model and show why it has to be separated into the rich and the poor regions, i.e., to demonstrate the co-existence of the rich and poor as an inevitable aspect of the world trading system. In the present model, the symmetry-breaking of the world economy into the rich and the poor occurs because international trade causes agglomeration of different economic activities in different regions of the world. International trade thus creates a kind of pecking order among nations, and as in a game of musical chairs, some countries must be excluded from being rich.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5697.

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Date of creation: Aug 1996
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Publication status: published as Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1996. "Why Are There Rich and Poor Countries? Symmetry-Breaking in the World Economy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 419-439, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5697

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  1. Panagariya, Arvind, 1988. "A Theoretical Explanation of Some Stylized Facts of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 509-26, August.
  2. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Why Doesn't Capital Flow from Rich to Poor Countries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 92-96, May.
  3. Antonio Ciccone & Kiminori Matsuyama, 1995. "Start-up costs and pecuniary externalities as barriers to economic development," Economics Working Papers 142, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Akihiko Matsui & Kiminori Matsuyama, 1990. "An Approach to Equilibrium Selection," Discussion Papers 970, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Irving B. Kravis & Robert E. Lipsey, 1982. "Towards an Explanation of National Price Levels," NBER Working Papers 1034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1991. "Increasing Returns, Industrialization, and Indeterminacy of Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 617-50, May.
  7. Murphy, Kevin M. & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Scholarly Articles 3606235, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Kiminiori Matsuyama, 1994. "Complementaries and Cumulative Processes In Models of Monopolistic Competition," Discussion Papers 1106, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Rodriguez-Clare, Andres, 1996. "The division of labor and economic development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 3-32, April.
  10. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1992. "The market size, entrepreneurship, and the big push," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 347-364, December.
  11. Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 1984. "Why Are Services Cheaper in the Poor Countries?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(374), pages 279-86, June.
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