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Emulation versus Comparative Advantage: Competing and Complementary Principles in the History of Economic Policy


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  • Erik S. Reinert


The objective of this chapter is to show how economic policies based on completely different principles - one described as 'emulation' and the other as 'comparative advantage' - have been strategically employed in order to achieve economic development when nations have made the transition from poor to wealthy. It also briefly describes key aspects of the process by which Europe, through emulation, developed from a collection of fief- doms ruled by warlords into city-states and later to nation-states. It is argued that the timing of the strategic shift from emulation to comparative advantage is of utmost importance to a nation. Making this policy shift too early will hamper development much as a late shift will do. It is argued that these principles, although sometimes under different names, were well known and employed by European nations from the seventeenth century the United States all the way to the end of the nineteenth cen- tury.and that the Marshall Plan implemented more than 60 years ago owed its success to putting the principle of emulation chronologically ahead of comparative advantage.

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Paper provided by TUT Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance in its series The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics with number 25.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tth:wpaper:25

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Cited by:
  1. Mario Cimoli & Giovanni Dosi & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2008. "The Future of Industrial Policies in the New Millennium: Toward a Knowledge-Centered Development Agenda," LEM Papers Series 2008/19, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  2. Erik S. Reinert, 2009. "The Terrible Simplifers: Common Origins of Financial Crises and Persistent Poverty in Economic Theory and the new ‘1848 Moment’," Working Papers 88, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  3. Devlin, Robert & Moguillansky, Graciela, 2012. "What's new in the new industrial policy in Latin America ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6191, The World Bank.


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