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What Makes Maddison Right
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Jan Luiten van Zanden & Debin Ma, World Economics, September 2017
The ‘Great Divergence debate’ in economic history relates to the question of when China fell behind the levels of well-being in Western Europe. A recent paper published in this journal argues that existing historical data cannot answer this question and criticizes estimates of Angus Maddison of GDP per capita based on limited evidence. The authors believe, in contrast, that critiques, assessments and summaries on the state of the Great Divergence debate even if flawed are in the original spirit of the Maddison research. Maddison’s work is less about right or wrong than about trying to achieve better or best estimates by overcoming the current constraint on data and methodologies over time.
False Perspective: The UNDP View of the World
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David Henderson, World Economics, March 2000
Despite some searching and unanswered criticisms of its treatment of statistical evidence, the UNDP Human Development Report has become established as a widely-quoted and influential survey of the world scene. The 1999 Report, reviewed here, focuses on ‘globalization’. This is described as a dominant influence on the recent economic fortunes of developing countries in particular, and as a primary cause of continuing poverty and growing inequality in the world. The author argues that the Report provides neither argument nor evidence in support of this thesis; that it takes no account of other factors that have strongly influenced economic performance; that its main prescription for the world, of reforms in ‘global governance’, is largely beside the point; and that its whole approach is crudely anti-liberal. The author concludes by placing the Report, as also the economists who have aligned themselves with it, in the wider context of anti-liberalism today.



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