Economic development is usually analyzed at the national level, but the literature on creative destruction and misallocation suggests the importance of understanding what is happening at much smaller units. This paper does a development case study at an extreme micro level (one city block in New York City), but over a long period of time (four centuries). We find that (i) development involves many changes in production as comparative advantage evolves and (ii) most of these changes were unexpected (“surprises”). As one episode from the block’s history illustrates, it is difficult for prescriptive planners to anticipate changes in comparative advantage, and it is easy for regulations to stifle creative destruction and to create misallocation. If economic growth indeed has a large component for increases in productivity through reallocation and innovation, we argue that the micro-level is important for understanding development at the national level.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
It is difficult for prescriptive planners to anticipate changes in comparative advantage
I have never heard it put quite this way before. Interesting. From A Long History of a Short Block: Four Centuries of Development Surprises on a Single Stretch of a New York City Street by William Easterly, Laura Freschi, and Steven Pennings. From the abstract.