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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.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 344.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 1989
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:344
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  1. Findlay, Ronald, 1989. "Is the new political economy relevant to developing countries ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 292, The World Bank.
  2. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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