Scale in the Study of Development: Lessons from Comparison

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 1:50 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4A (Colorado Convention Center)
Sergio Silva Castañeda, Instituto Technológico Autónomo de Mexico
The study of economic growth and development has always been a comparative endeavor even it has not always been acknowledged. Since we started systematically dividing the world into developed and underdeveloped countries, after the Second World War, we have been also making a comparative argument: we have defined development benchmarks for “underdeveloped countries” based on the experience of what we call developed countries. Is this a good idea? In this presentation I will argue about how these categories are more arbitrary than we are usually willing to accept (based on a single economic metric and using only the most successful countries as the benchmark). I will stress the need of using a more diverse set of measurements and more ad-hoc benchmarks for the comparative study of economic development. In the end, the historical study of development needs comparisons, but that does not mean that all cases can be studied under the same standards.