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Complexity meets development - a felicitous encounter on the road of life

  • Lewis L. Smith


    (Office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico)

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    Since before Adam Smith, economists have been concerned with development. However, they have seldom understood it or paid it enough mind. For example, the "sequence" economists, such as Marx in the 19th Century and Rostow in the 20th sought to force development everywhere into a rigid pattern. Since 1874, the marginalists and their Neoliberal descendents have emphasised comparative statics and steady-state equilibriums, not growth. Although many new ideas popped up after WW II, none proved satisfactory. These included alleged "silver bullets" such as "free" trade, foreign direct investment, import substitution, industrialization and investment in human capital, as well as varied sets of "multiple drivers", whose individual effects proved hard to sort out. Meanwhile, Neoliberal economics gradually took over the non-Marxist world. But it lost its credibility by spawning a mindless globalisation and long series of economic, human and social disasters. So today development economics is undergoing a "rebirth", with "the Barcelona Consensus", custom design, multiple objectives and sustainability among its guiding stars. By happy coincidence, a new discipline called complexity began to emerge in the mid 1980's. Out of it has come a new kind of economics which is not only congruent with current thinking about development but also provides useful advice in the design and management of development programs, including those related to poverty. Meanwhile the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (USA) is trying a new approach to the eradication of this evil. Poor communities have been identified, organised and then made responsible for taking the lead in coordinating their own development. This coordination covers not only projects managed by the community but those sponsored by outside private- and public-sector organisations. The "jury is still out" but the odds are that this approach will provide much more civic, economic and social development for the poor than previous attempts. And a major factor improving these odds, is that this approach is the one most compatible with a vision of Puerto Rican society as a complex system.

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    Article provided by Croatian Interdisciplinary Society Provider Homepage: in its journal Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems.

    Volume (Year): 5 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 151-160

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    Handle: RePEc:zna:indecs:v:5:y:2007:i:2:p:151-160
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    1. Campos, Nauro F & Coricelli, Fabrizio, 2002. "Growth in Transition: What we Know, What we Don't and What we Should," CEPR Discussion Papers 3246, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Gernot Doppelhofer & Ronald I. Miller & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2000. "Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," NBER Working Papers 7750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mikael Lindahl & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Education for Growth: Why and for Whom?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1101-1136, December.
    4. Steven N. Durlauf & Andros Kourtellos & Chih Ming Tan, 2007. "Are any Growth Theories Robust?," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 2-2007, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
    5. L. Alan Winters & Neil McCulloch & Andrew McKay, 2004. "Trade Liberalization and Poverty: The Evidence So Far," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(1), pages 72-115, March.
    6. Mukand, Sharun & Rodrik, Dani, 2002. "In Search of the Holy Grail: Policy Convergence, Experimentation and Economic Performance," Working Paper Series rwp02-027, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    7. DE LA CROIX, David & DOEPKE, Matthias, . "Inequality and growth: why differential fertility matters," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1676, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    8. Romain Wacziarg, 2002. "Review of Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(3), pages 907-918, September.
    9. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? A Review of the World Bank's Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(4), pages 973-987, December.
    10. Jagdish Bhagwati, 2002. "Trade and Poverty in the Poor Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 180-183, May.
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