NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Economic Development as Self-Discovery

Ricardo Hausmann, Dani Rodrik

NBER Working Paper No. 8952
Issued in May 2002
NBER Program(s):   ITI

In the presence of uncertainty about what a country can be good at producing, there can be great social value to discovering costs of domestic activities because such discoveries can be easily imitated. We develop a general-equilibrium framework for a small open economy to clarify the analytical and normative issues. We highlight two failures of the laissez-faire outcome: there is too little investment and entrepreneurship ex ante, and too much production diversification ex post. Optimal policy consists of counteracting these distortions: to encourage investments in the modern sector ex ante, but to rationalize production ex post. We provide some informal evidence on the building blocks of our model.

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Published: Hausmann, Ricardo and Dani Rodrik. "Economic Development As Self-Discovery," Journal of Development Economics, 2003, v72(2,Dec), 603-633.

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