Contrary to Robert Wade's arguments last month, countries that open up their economies tend to prosper. We need to help more of them reap globalisation's benefitsby P L / August 27, 2006 / Leave a comment
Globalisation isn’t working, according to Robert Wade (July). If you exclude China—a mere 1.3bn people—it has not made much of a dent in global poverty or inequality, he claims. And if you ignore the boom years since 2000—why bother using up-to-date statistics?—it hasn’t delivered faster growth either. This is a weak argument, which appears to stand up only by excluding evidence that contradicts it—but even on its own terms it isn’t correct. In fact, developing countries that have embraced globalisation are growing faster than before; so fast that they are closing the gap with rich countries, slashing poverty and reducing global inequality for the first time since the industrial revolution catapulted Europe forward. Globalisation is working.
Wade claims that, “If the liberal argument holds, we would expect the global shift towards free markets in the past 25 years to have raised the rate of world economic growth. Instead, there has been a slowdown in developed and developing countries. Between the era of managed capitalism (roughly 1960-78) and the era of globalisation (roughly 1979-2000), the growth rate of world output fell by almost half, from 2.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.”
Not so. According to the latest IMF figures, the world economy grew by 3.3 per cent a year from 1986-95 and by 3.9 per cent a year from 1996-2005. Better still, while in 1986-95 emerging economies grew only fractionally faster than advanced economies (3.7 per cent a year compared with 3 per cent), in 1996-2005 they grew over twice as fast (5.5 per cent a year compared with 2.7 per cent). Far from stagnating, the world economy is booming—and developing countries are outpacing developed ones.
But in any case, Wade’s methodology is shoddy. Even if global growth had slowed since 1979, one could not deduce from such aggregate figures that globalisation wasn’t working. Contrary to what he asserts, there has not been a global shift towards free markets, let alone one that can be dated to 1979. Countries have opened their markets to varying degrees and at different times; some have failed to liberalise at all or have even become more protectionist. What’s more, globalisation is not the only economic change of the past 40 years, and so cannot necessarily be considered responsible for any particular change in economic performance. The right way to judge whether globalisation is working is to look at individual economies’ performance before and…