Publication Date

1998

Comments

Working Paper 1

Abstract

The paper examines grounds on which a `second opinion’ to the Washington Consensus may be constructed using data for a sample of 123 rich and poor nations for the period from 1960 to 1995. The historical record makes abundantly clear that international inequality has increased not only over the long haul of the past two centuries but also in recent decades. Unequal development derives mainly from economic and political-economic forces internal to nations. Unregulated global market forces mostly follow this process rather than countering it. At the same time, the fragile internal development process is vulnerable to the disruptive forces of unrestricted openness. To be sure, access to global markets can be a powerful factor in development. But development success has hinged on selective and phased integration with world markets. This understanding clearly goes against the prevailing view that the growth benefits from globalization far outweigh the costs and that the main task for developing countries is to eliminate all impediments in the way of integrating their domestic economies with global trade and financial flows. It is not only economic growth as it relates to globalization that is at issue. The historical record also shows that the wealth of nations alone fails to account for variations in the levels of national poverty and inequality. Hence, we must also be concerned about whether increasing globalization restructures incentives in a direction that is conducive to reducing inequality and poverty. Apart from the purely economic mechanisms, this concern must extend also to the capacities for public action that globalization might weaken. The paper is animated by the belief that given the continuing primacy of the nation state, a modicum of national policy autonomy is vital to a politically sustainable economy, particularly in redressing endemic problems of poverty and inequality.

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