Explaining Miracles: Growth Regressions Meet the Gang of Four
In: Growth Theories in Light of the East Asian Experience, NBER-EASE Volume 4
The authorexamines a range of cross-sectional variation in performance and policies for evidence on what distinguishes successes from failures. At about 6 percent, the growth rate of the Four Tigers - Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (China) - are among the largest outliners in any study of growth. This is not surprising, says the author. The Four Tigers are Tigers because their growth rate was high. The Four generally have large positive residuals in growth regressions, but the author argues that this is not surprising for observations that were known in advance to be at the top of the sample. But growth regressions and, more generally, quantitative measures of"policies"are not very successful at picking out the Gang of Four as"most likely to succeed."Most observers before the"miracle"were pessimistic about East Asia. The Four are not nearly as superlative in policies and other country characteristics as they are in per capita growth rates. Large positive residuals such as those associated with the Four's high performance have historically been transitory. The stratospheric trajectory of the Four should be heading back toward earth soon, says the author. What may be unusual about the Four's success is that they were all in one region. At least casually, the Asian successes look a lot like growth radiating from poles, with Japan followed by the Gang of Four, followed by China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The great success of the Gang of Four does not imply a blanket endorsement of all their policies - they may have made mistakes that were more than offset by other good policies and, probably at least in part, by good luck. It is disturbing how large and transitory the unexplained element is in economic success. Perhaps the best way to think about good policies is that they make success likely sooner or later. When all is said and done, the story of the East Asian successes is consistent with the prosaic fun
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