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The Terrible Simplifers: Common Origins of Financial Crises and Persistent Poverty in Economic Theory and the new ‘1848 Moment’

  • Erik S. Reinert

One element explaining the financial crisis is what Hyman Minsky called ‘destabilizing stability’: long periods of stability lead to increasing vulnerability. This paper argues that similar mechanisms are at work inside economics: long periods of economic progress in the core countries lead to increasingly abstract and irrelevant economic theories (‘terrible simplifications’). This leads to turning points towards more relevant economic theories, referred to as ‘1848 moments’. The paper further outlines the key variables that need to be re-introduced into economic theory in order to furnish poor countries with the type of productive structures that makes it possible to eliminate poverty.

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File URL: http://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2009/wp88_2009.pdf
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Paper provided by United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs in its series Working Papers with number 88.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:une:wpaper:88
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/working-papers.htmlEmail:


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  1. Erik S. Reinert & Rainer Kattel, 2009. "The Economics of Failed, Failing, and Fragile States: Productive Structure as the Missing Link," The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics 18, TUT Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance.
  2. Erik S. Reinert, 1999. "The role of the state in economic growth," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 26(4/5), pages 268-326, September.
  3. Deepak Nayyar, 2008. "Learning to Unlearn from Development," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 259-280.
  4. Wolfgang Drechsler, 2004. "Natural versus Social Sciences: On Understanding in Economics," Chapters, in: Globalization, Economic Development and Inequality, chapter 2 Edward Elgar.
  5. Mario Cimoli & Giovanni Dosi & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2008. "The Political Economy of Capabilities Accumulation: the Past and Future of Policies for Industrial Development. A Preface," LEM Papers Series 2008/15, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  6. Erik S. Reinert, 2009. "Emulation versus Comparative Advantage: Competing and Complementary Principles in the History of Economic Policy," The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics 25, TUT Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance.
  7. Jan KREGEL, 2004. "External Financing For Development And International Financial Instability," G-24 Discussion Papers 32, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
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