Dani Rodrik on Globalization and its Discontents

From Pro-Market:

In an interview with ProMarket, Harvard economist Dani Rodrik explained where globalization went wrong, how trade agreements serve rent-seeking by politically well-connected firms, and why the only solution to the rise of political populism is an economic populism that reimagines the institutions of capitalism.

Q: A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development argued that the hyperglobalization of the past 30 years has led to a sharp increase in market concentration, which in turn led to a proliferation of rent-seeking. Do you agree with the assessment that globalization has increased rent-seeking?

I’m not saying that it has increased rent-seeking. I’m agnostic on that. I think it’s changed the relative power of different groups of rent-seekers and that the terrain over which the rent-seeking is taking place is different. I don’t want to make a blanket statement that we’re in a world where rent-seeking has increased. I think it’s always been there. I think what has happened is a combination of changes in our ideas and changes in the financial power and other powers of different groups, and this combination is reflected in the various parts of our global economy.

I think that by fetishizing globalization and exaggerating its benefits and understating its downsides, we have essentially privileged and prioritized a set of powerful interests. The fact that pharmaceutical companies or foreign investors find it so easy to get what they want is in part because of our existing narratives, or existing ideas, about how the world does or should work.

Q: You differentiate between two kinds of populism—political populism, the kind of autocratic populism we see from the likes of Putin in Russia and Erdoğan in Turkey—and economic populism, which you write is “occasionally necessary” and which you seem to suggest as a potential remedy to our current predicament. What is economic populism, and how is it different from political populism?

I think economic populism is a populism that takes aim at the sources of economic inequality and at concentrations of economic power. Today in the US, economic populism would take the form of bringing the financial sector down to size, reducing the influence of Wall Street in political institutions, and having much greater regulation of the financial sector. It would mean taking aim at concentrations of power in high-tech and digital industries. It would mean taking aim at our current pattern of trade agreements, which often privilege particular corporate interests and investors. All of that would be economic populism that tries to reshape the distribution of economic power and tries to reduce the concentration of economic power but does not try to turn the political system into an authoritarian one, does not necessarily concentrate political power or undermine liberal norms of pluralism and tolerance.

See my profile of Dani Rodrik here.

Posted by at 7:55 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists


Subscribe to: Posts