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Policy distortions, size of government, and growth


  • Easterly, William R.


This paper analyzes the structural relationship between policies that distort resource allocation and long-term growth. It briefly reviews the Solow model in which steady-state growth depends only on exogenous technological change, but finds it unsatisfactory as a model of long-term growth. The author proposes an increasing-returns model in the spirit of the new literature on economic growth. With increasing returns, endogenous economic variables - and thus policy - will affect the steady-state rate of growth. This model gives output as a linear function of total capital, but a decreasing function of each of two types of capital. The distortion is defined as a policy intervention that increases the cost of using one of the types of capita. The results suggest that simple linear relationships between distortions and growth, or between size of government and growth, are untenable. Easterly's model shows that reducing the distortions does not have an equal effect on growth in all circumstances. The effect depends on how flexible the economy is, how large the share of the factor being penalized in production is, and how high the distortions are initially. Small changes in either very low or very high levels of initial distortions have a minimal effect on growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Easterly, William R., 1989. "Policy distortions, size of government, and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 344, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:344

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "A Cross-Country Study of Growth, Saving, and Government," NBER Chapters,in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 271-304 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
    4. Findlay, Ronald, 1989. "Is the new political economy relevant to developing countries ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 292, The World Bank.
    5. Baumol, William J, 1986. "Productivity Growth, Convergence, and Welfare: What the Long-run Data Show," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1072-1085, December.
    6. Easterly, William R. & Wetzel, Deborah L., 1989. "Policy determinants of growth : survey of theory and evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 343, The World Bank.
    7. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jones, Larry E. & Manuelli, Rodolfo E., 1992. "Finite lifetimes and growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 171-197, December.
    2. Shantayanan Devarajan & Vinaya Swaroop & Heng-fu Zou, 1993. "What do governments buy?," CEMA Working Papers 513, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    3. Matías Berthelon, 2004. "Growth Effects of Regional Integration Agreements," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 278, Central Bank of Chile.
    4. Patrick Artus, 1993. "Croissance endogène : revue des modèles et tentatives de synthèse," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 44(2), pages 189-228.
    5. Korhan Gokmenoglu, 2013. "Re-Examination Of Wagner’S Law For Oecd Countries," Annals - Economy Series, Constantin Brancusi University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 1, pages 28-37, February.
    6. Jones, Larry E. & Manuelli, Rodolfo E., 1997. "The sources of growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 75-114, January.
    7. Solimano, Andres, 1991. "Inflation and growth in the transition from socialism : the case of Bulgaria," Policy Research Working Paper Series 659, The World Bank.
    8. Wacziarg, Romain, 1998. "Measuring the dynamic gains from trade," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2001, The World Bank.
    9. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Swaroop, Vinaya & Heng-fu, Zou, 1996. "The composition of public expenditure and economic growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 313-344, April.
    10. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Swaroop, Vinaya & Heng-fu Zou, 1993. "What do governments buy? The composition of public spending and economic performance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1082, The World Bank.
    11. Jones, Larry E. & Manuelli, Rodolfo E., 1995. "Growth and the effects of inflation," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 19(8), pages 1405-1428, November.
    12. Hartler, Christina, 1991. "Agricultural Pricing and Growth," Working Paper Series 307, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.


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