Oliver W. Kim

Oliver's Head Model of Development

Packed in there is some version of Solow, maybe Kremer-style model where ideas generation increases with the size of the population. That's about it. In A model is an intuition pump. Crude accumulation can only take you so far. What really matters is your *A*, that mysterious Solow residual that packs in technology, art, human rights, etc.—anything that could conceivably matter for producing output. You might shrug your shoulders and say, well, duh. But it's difficult to understate what an intellectual leap this was. For most of human history, growth in *A* was indistinguishable from 0. You'll catch people Anyway, As a guide for policy it's not very useful. There seems to have been some weird path-dependent institutional setup to South Korea and Taiwan: (1) their precarious position on the frontlines of the US Cold War coalition, (2) existential threats creating incentives for rapid growth, and (3) relatively homogenous populations with shared histories that could cohere into a nation-state. Maybe there's a case to be made for (4) a "parent model" state (in Asia's case, Japan), whose cultural similarity makes copying ideas easier to swallow. Most sub-Saharan African countries lack (3). Without a strong institutional constraints, as in the United States, it's easy to descend into a clientelistic politics divided on ethnic lines. Then the focus is not on growing the economic pie but scrambling for the biggest slice. (1), (2), and (3) also describe Vietnam. At the risk of overfitting, maybe there's something to be said about the relative ease of fighting a guerilla war in rugged jungle terrain, as opposed to rugged mountain terrain. Perversely, perhaps it was South Korea's good fortune that Kim Il-Sung chose to launch a conventional invasion. - That, plus a great deal of good luck. South Korea stumbled for much of the 1950s. Perhaps the Chiang Kai-shek who hadn't "lost" China may not have allowed land redistribution. - In East Asia, who are the successes? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, - If we expand our scope to Africa and Latin America, we realize that East Asian countries share some other common features we hadn't noticed. They're resource-poor, people-rich. ## The Culture Crux The null hypothesis is an incredible organizing principle for research. But at heart it's also a reflection of consensus, which means power, orthodoxy, structure. It puts the burden of proof on the insurgent. New theories—Copernicus's heliocentrism, Darwin and Wallace's theory of evolution by natural selection—ran up against the Powers that Be. Imagine you're a world-leading researcher on rare diseases. One day, you learn that your child has been fallen sick with an undiagnosable illness. How would you react if your child's doctors were to shrug and say, "Well, I suppose it's hereditary. Nothing to be done." The human response would be to search for an answer, any answer, before that fatalist surrender. Learning why some countries escape poverty and some are left behind demands the same moral urgency. To assume that all cultures in a vacuum would produce the same outcomes for the same narrow set of indicators—GDP growth, inflation—would be far too strong a claim. In statistical jargon, it's an incredibly poor out-of-sample predictor. In the category of rich countries, there’s the always-rich: Britain and the Low Countries. Just behind them are the continental powers, Germany and France, and the newcomer United States. Add in other European catch-up cases, and land-rich Western colonies in Canada and Australia, and you’ve got the list of “developed” countries circa 1914.

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