"We are having a debate on corporate tax policy. No businesspeople will be punished for discussing tax policy for the next fifteen days and will have the chance to present their opinions to decision makers at the end of the period." - that actually sounds more enjoyable than the "cancel culture" style of debate

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Stephen Kotkin makes the interesting point that competing parties always weaken communist party control. If you allow any liberalization, in other words, the diversity undermines the ideology of remaking individuals according to a communal idea; whereas diversity strengthens the ideology of individual difference. In that regard, the ideal communist leader embodies the ideal communal type - hence, Xi Jinping does not appear to western eyes as someone striving to make an individual footprint on the sands of time.

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Regarding the Scalia point about the Bill of Rights, I think what sets the US apart is having it alongside really strong norms about the rule of law. Autocrat constitutions (Gaddaffi’s is a great example) tend to be straight up lies, but other rule of law countries rarely have anything remotely as strong as the US. Europe’s answer to the first amendment, Article 10, is a good example:

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

If you’re wondering about all the stuff it’s illegal to say, it’s normally caught under “necessary in a democratic society” if it’s racism/sexism/criticism of religions (but occasionally prevention of disorder or public safety - this is more so for homophobia). Crazy libel laws come under protecting the reputation of others, and protection of morals is left for obscenity and what’s left of blasphemy laws. In practice, you have freedom of speech unless there’s a sufficient elite consensus for both judges AND politicians not to want you to say something.

Most countries’ bill of rights equivalents look a lot like this (albeit this is a particularly funny example of paragraph 2 looking like the small print).

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Apr 28, 2022·edited Apr 28, 2022

Here is a really wonderful demonstration of Scalia's point about corruption. UN diplomats used to not be forced to pay parking tickets. NY didn't like this and still tracked them. The number of tickets a country's diplomats got was highly correlated with corruption in their home countries: http://emiguel.econ.berkeley.edu/research/corruption-norms-and-legal-enforcement-evidence-from-diplomatic-parking-tickets/

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> Communist leaderships choose their leaders for ideological reasons. You're reducing it to cynical power politics. But this isn't how the the Soviet premier got or the Chinese paramount leader gets selected. They're selected for being good Communists, effectively for outstanding achievements in Communism, combined with pragmatic political considerations.

Don't know about China, but that's not how Chrushchev got selected. I think every member of politbyro was very acutely aware of what would happen to them personally if Beria won. It was more like a fight for survival.

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That Khrushchev quote in full:

"I'm old and tired. Let them cope by themselves. I've done the main thing. Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn't suit us anymore and suggesting he retire? Not even a wet spot would have remained where we had been standing. Now everything is different. The fear is gone, and we can talk as equals. That's my contribution. I won't put up a fight."

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The more I learn about China, the more I update toward "China has a very high functioning, innovative and strategic government focused on long-term economic and military primacy. The US has a sclerotic government mostly occupied with internal hostilities, buying votes with handouts (to citizens and corporations) and culture war red meat."

There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking otherwise -- I also wish it wasn't true since one of their primary goals is to bury the US -- but it seems like the simplest synthesis of everything I read. I'd love for someone to talk me out of it.

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I must not be understanding what the person is claiming, who is alleging that catch-up growth isn't a thing. Let's look back at the chart they posted: https://ourworldindata.org/economic-growth-since-1950

First, I don't see the specific trendline that they're claiming has slope greater than 1. It's true that the bottom envelope of the data points has slope greater than 1, but the top envelope of the data points has slope *far* less than 1. The biggest thing that chart clearly shows is that low-income countries have much greater *variance* in their growth, while high-income countries have much lower variance in growth. It's true that the only countries that had negative growth are countries whose GDP per capita in 1950 was below $5,000. But it's also true that the only countries whose growth was above a factor of 10x were below this line, and the only countries whose growth was above a factor of 15x were even lower, and the only countries whose growth was above a factor of 30x were even lower.

What you'd want to properly let your eyes see the relevant trends is a graph where the x-axis is GDP per capita in 1950, but the y-axis is growth rate from 1950-2016, rather than the y-axis being GDP per capita in 2016.

In any case, looking at the chart, it seems that the catch-up growth idea is very strongly supported for countries that were above $5,000 GDP per capita in 1950. The top 5 countries are all below the world average (other than Luxembourg, which barely beats it), and the next 20 or so countries are almost all above the world average, with the ones that nearly double world growth being towards the bottom of that range. The only members of that top 20 that grew slower than the top 5 are South Africa, Lebanon, USSR, Uruguay, and Argentina. Three of those countries had famously dysfunctional regime changes in that period, and Argentina had some famously bad financial crises, though Uruguay is hard to explain.

It's very hard for me to tell if there is much support or counter-evidence for the catch-up growth thesis for the countries that started poorer. I would dismiss most of the actually shrinking low-income countries as exceptions due to war, though the opponent of the catch-up growth thesis would presumably claim that these conflicts are in fact endogenous to the poverty.

It seems very plausible to me, given just this chart, that by "default", lower-income countries have higher growth rates than higher-income countries, but that low income countries have a possibility of awful conflict and war that leaves them even worse off which high income countries don't have.

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> Communist leaderships choose their leaders for ideological reasons. You're reducing it to cynical power politics.

So that's how you weed out power seekers! You simply have to select people for ideological reasons!

Well, look through Soviet history, for example, and you will see that ideology differences of Party groups strangely happens to coincide with their political interests.

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Just fyi "oikonomia" is also the Orthodox term for latitude given to priests to bend the rules in response to local conditions. One example might be allowing Americans to break the Nativity Fast on Thanksgiving because it's a God-centered holiday and therefore to be approved of.

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"Economies usually have a period of impressive catch-up growth as they develop, then stagnate as they near the technological frontier."

I think this needs to be looked at more carefully. Which I think I'll do and report back in an open thread. The data is here: https://www.rug.nl/ggdc/historicaldevelopment/maddison/releases/maddison-project-database-2018?lang=en

(1) Should we weight by population? I haven't done the calculation, but if I look at only China, India, USA, & Indonesia (the 4 biggest countries), the slope does look less than one.

(2) This is looking at the total change between 1950 and 2016, so the data is integrated in some sense. If you look at every year for every country, a different picture might emerge.

(3) I think that the biggest conclusion will be that high income countries have lower variance than low income countries. They're likely to have good institutions (or they wouldn't be high income), so they're unlikely to do too poorly. They're at the technological frontier, so they're unlikely to grow too quickly. Lower income countries with good institutions can grow much more rapidly, so catch up growth is a real phenomenon. Lower income countries are more likely to have terrible institutions than high income countries, so they also might perform worse.

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> And though he is still alive, Jiang certainly couldn't just march back into power the way Deng could have.

He certainly can't *just* march back into power, but I do think he's trying to retake power. There have been some fires, plane crashes, and other incidents which are consistent with someone trying to publicly humiliate Xi in advance of his reelection this Fall. Jiang, who certainly consolidated control over the secret police during his tenure and still has a lot of connections if not outright control there, is the logical culprit. Plus, Jiang's power base is in Shanghai. The "bungled" early lockdown there followed by the much stricter one currently in place is consistent with a calculated ploy to create a crisis in Shanghai which Xi can use as an excuse to bring in military and civil authorities to crack down on Jiang's supporters. Clearly this has gotten out of hand and, if this theory is true, Xi created a much bigger problem than he was trying to solve, since now he has the failure of COVID Zero and a potential civil revolt in Shanghai to deal with, but that's consistent with the sorts of mistakes Chinese autocrats have historically made.

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Jonathan Ray isn't quite wrong, but he's also not really correct. It's true that catch up growth isn't a hard law of economics (pretty much nothing is lol). Just because you're currently poor (meaning low GDP/cap) does not mean that you will grow quickly. There are lots of countries that used to be poor, and still are. However, the idea of catch-up growth is useful as a prediction of the limits of potential growth. That is, being poor doesn't mean you *will* grow fast -- but the cap on how fast you can grow will be higher than a more developed economy. Starting off poor is a necessary but not sufficient condition for high growth. If you manage your economy poorly, all bets are off -- but an ideally-managed developed economy can't grow nearly as fast as an ideally-managed developing economy. The US today, for example, could never achieve the growth of Japan in the 70s/80s.

Source: I'm currently taking a course on economic growth and development from a prominent scholar in the field at a top-10 school.

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> oikos (household, family, private area as opposed to public)

Gotta love how in "ecology" it ended up meaning pretty much the complete opposite of that.

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Wait, re: “Economies usually have a period of impressive catch-up growth as they develop, then stagnate as they near the technological frontier.”

I'm not sure the “fact check” / update is correct. I think what you originally said/thought is true for developing countries. See the last chart in this Paul Romer blog post: https://paulromer.net/speeding-up-and-missed-opportunities-evidence/

Or, an updated version of the same: Fig. 3 in this paper: https://paulromer.net/speeding-up-and-missed-opportunities-evidence/JonesRomer2010.pdf

What those charts show is that the wealthiest countries grow at a moderate/average rate, while the poorest countries have a wide spectrum of growth rates. Editorializing a bit: if they keep doing the things that made them poor in the first place, they grow slowly or shrink; if they get in gear and grow, they can grow faster than any wealthy country; and they can do anything in between.

On the Our World in Data chart that Jonathan Ray linked to, this corresponds to the fact that there's nothing above the top of the chart. E.g., the only countries that grew 30x from 1950–2016 are those that started from at most ~$2500/person, the only ones that grew 10x started from at most ~$8000, etc. (And also that there's nothing in the upper right corner: countries that started wealthy but grew slowly, instead of moderately.)

I called this the Anna Karenina principle of economic growth: “Wealthy countries are all alike (in growth rate); every poor country has its own growth rate.”

See also this Twitter thread where Nathaniel Bechhofer claims that, in recent years, the triangle has tilted, so that on average, “low and lower-middle income countries are doing better than high-middle and high income countries as measured by growth rates”: https://twitter.com/jasoncrawford/status/1512211228248064002

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The scalia quote is from a speech that's on youtube. I highly recommend giving it a watch: it's both hilarious and insightful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggz_gd--UO0

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"I have a good example - if you’re in Japan or Germany at 2am and there are pedestrian at an intersection they will dutifully stand there until the they get a walk signal. Even with no car to be seen for miles. In the US most folks would just jaywalk."

It always tickles me that jaywalking is a thing in the land of the free.

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"From my perspective, this elimination of cash bribery has been a massive benefit. Whatever the intentions behind it, it's made life much better."

I would like to hear more about how this was achieved. Low level bribery (just to get someone to do their job) was just a fact of life when I was in China a couple of decades ago. How was the cultural change enabled?

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(Banned)Apr 29, 2022·edited Apr 29, 2022

Erusian's first point is utterly naive. China is communist in name only.

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(Banned)Apr 29, 2022·edited Apr 29, 2022

I taught English at a high-level university in Wuhan for years, from 2010-2015. I was allowed to teach whatever I wanted, and I did. So did my colleagues. Universities were definitely allowed more leeway up until recently.

Probably the funniest part is when I told my students casually that Vietnam won the war against China in 1979. They protested that China had in fact won, because that's the lie they'd been taught, and I told them it was okay to accept the truth of their defeat because America had lost to Vietnam as well. They thought that was hilarious.

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Apr 30, 2022·edited Apr 30, 2022

Scott - you may want to hold back your update on the convergence of poor economies to rich ones. There is some debate that the last three decades have been different from the comment you cite - https://www.cgdev.org/blog/everything-you-know-about-cross-country-convergence-now-wrong

".... We simply want to point out that while economists were busy refining the econometric tools for studying divergence, the basic facts about economic growth around the world turned completely upside down a quarter century ago—and the literature doesn’t seem to have noticed.

While the Johnson-Pageorgiou review notes in passing that “[s]ince the early 1990s the pace of growth of income per capita in many developing economies has accelerated to unprecedented levels and is substantially above that in high income countries,” it goes on to perpetuate the pessimistic no-unconditional convergence view, even and especially drawing on literature for the recent past (see emphasized text above). But this view is plain wrong. While unconditional convergence was singularly absent in the past, there has been unconditional convergence, beginning (weakly) around 1990 and emphatically for the last two decades."

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“ Germany at 2am and there are pedestrian at an intersection they will dutifully stand there until the they get a walk signal.”

I live in Japan and I see people blowing red lights literally every day, jaywalking, etc. The whole Japanese people are law abiding thing is not as true as people make it out to be.

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Where is the original blog post on this? Or was it a comment in one of the open threads?

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Responding to Phil H on corruption: I lived in China from 2016-2017 and I did a *lot* of cash bribery, and was advised it was an unavoidable fact of life by all Chinese friends and colleagues.

Perhaps this stamping out happened since then. Or perhaps my large (almost 10 million) but not especially prominent city was well behind on that modernisation. But it seems like a counterpoint worth mentioning.

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