What, then, should be concluded? Was development "easier"
in the nineteenth century than in the 1950-1980 period, or was it
"harder"? The answer, it would seem, is that aside from political
pressures and the policy issues discussed in Section 3, it is
greatly easier. In deed, except for Subsaharan Africa, developing
countries' growth rates have exceeded those of the
now-industrialized countries in the last century by a considerable
margin, Moreover, they exceeded those of developed countries, so
that here has been on average some catchup.
The role of ideas in policy formulation poses the most
difficult question. A highly plausible case can be made that the
West could not have developed had the role of government that
is now widely accepted as standard been the norm in the
nineteenth century. Insofar as ideas concerning the role and
obligations of the state are readily transmitted internationally,
those same ideas which limit further growth of the now-rich
countries certainly render political pressures for
non-developmental government activities all the greater.
One must conclude, then, that the 1950-1980 period provided
a very hospitable international environment for those countries
whose economic policies could be formulated outside the
influence of deep-seated distrust of markets. Indeed, the
international economy was so hospitable that even countries
whose economic policies were demonstrably inefficient were
nonetheless able to grow unless those policies were too extreme:
they just grew less rapidly than countries fully availing
themselves of the international economy and the opportunities it
presented. Unquestionably, growth could proceed at rates unheard
of in the nineteenth century, as the evidence from the successful
developing countries, and even the satisficers, indicates.
The question may be asked, in concluding, whether
environment of the next quarter century will be as favorable.
Clearly, the international economy of the early 1980s was far
less conducive to growth than the three earlier decades had
been(although a number of countries nonetheless registered very
good, and even highly successful, growth record). The terms of
trade for primary commodities habe sharply deteriorated; the rate
of growth of world trade has slowed markedly; official capital
flows habe not increased while private flows have diminished;
and threats of protection and a collapse of the multilateral
trading system are very real.
The answer must be that, even on very optimistic
assumptions, it is difficult to imagine the growth of the
international economy being as rapid over the next
quarter-century as it was over the quarter century beginning in
1950. In that sense, the opportunities offered by the international
economy will not be as favorable as those of the recent past.
Ironically, however, in a less permissive international
environment, it is possible that policy formulation in developing
countries will improve, in the sense of eschewing, or at least
reducing the impact of. policies highly inimical to growth. The
international environment of 1950-1980 did not penalize
policymistakes quickly or severely.
In that sense, it was permissive, with little feedback to
policymakers or voters to teel that the foregone growth costs
were significant. In the present environment, feedback is more
rapid, and the penalties for policy mistakes are significantly
greater. The post-1985 period could be one of more rapid growth
of developing countries than was the 1950-1980 period, if the
benefits from more appropriate domestic economic policies
outweigh the costs of a less buoyant international economy. A
great deal has been learned about development over the past
several decades, and especially in the 1980s. If that pays off in
more rapid growth, the benefits of being a latecomer will be
even greater because the mistakes of the past can be avoided.