Trade and Development: Essays in Honour of Jagdish Bhagwati

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Citing Literature. Volume 65 , Issue 4 December Pages Related Information. He has written numerous articles and books on development, immigration, rent-seeking, democracy, and environmental and labor standards that have bagged several awards. And all of his passionate and reasoned outpourings have come from a pen touched by wit and elegance see box. In short, he has been a looming, influential presence on the international policymaking scene for many years.

Trade and Development: Essays in Honour of Jagdish Bhagwati

Bhagwati was born in , one of seven children to an illustrious family in India, modest in means but lofty in its educational aspirations and social ideals. He recalls a happy but Spartan childhood, the tight purse strings loosened for only one indulgence: an unlimited account for the children at the local bookstore, where they devoured the classics, both Indian and Western.

A way with words. Metaphors matter," insists Bhagwati, who uses wit and words to explain and persuade.

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Take, for example, the brother-in-law analogy that he uses to highlight the distinction between rent-seeking behavior and corruption. When you lobby for rents and use up resources, he explains, it is a directly unproductive DUP activity. But if there is a brother-in-law to whom the rents are inevitably headed, nobody will bother to lobby. In this case, there is corruption but no DUP activity. Unless, of course, some farsighted crook devotes resources to court the sister in order to become the brother-in-law in order to get the rents.

Then we are back to rent-seeking. Commenting on those who argue against free trade because it leads to de-industrialization and destroys linkages between industry ketchup makers and agriculture tomato growers , he observes: "As I read the profound assertion about the tomato farm and the ketchup plant, I was eating my favorite Crabtree and Evelyn vintage marmalade. It surely had not occurred to me that England grew its own oranges. After graduating from St. His father, a judge on the Indian Supreme Court, had high hopes for his joining the legal profession.

But the independent-minded son abandoned law, having been seduced by economics and its promise for doing social good. Besides, Bhagwati notes, the food at St. When he arrived at St. Guillebaud, greeted him with the encouraging words, "You know Indians never do well at Cambridge.

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This piece, published in , spawned a cottage industry of papers, very much in the spirit of the literature of the "second-best," which said broadly that good things growth and capital inflows can lead to bad outcomes in the presence of a distortion. Cambridge, England—where he was taught by the likes of Nicholas Kaldor, Joan Robinson, and Harry Johnson—was followed by Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Bhagwati pursued graduate studies at MIT under Paul Samuelson, Charles Kindleberger, and Robert Solow, whose roles as teacher gave way over time to those of colleagues and collaborators.

A short stint followed at Oxford where he worked with other great economists like John Hicks and Roy Harrod. Bhagwati left the ivory tower for the hurly burly of Indian reality in , working in the Indian Planning Commission, on loan from the Indian Statistical Institute. For a young economist, these years also provided a heady interaction with the giants of newly independent India—Prime Ministers Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and the polymath adviser to Nehru, P.

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The experience also instilled in him a rootedness in the real world and its problems that would serve him well throughout his career. Even as he indulged his love of theory, he would remain engaged with the live policy questions affecting social welfare.

Economic and Developmental Reforms: Lessons from India’s Experience

Some time around came the eureka moment with the insight that would lead to one of the more influential papers in the postwar theory of commercial policy, "Domestic Distortions, Tariffs, and the Theory of the Optimum Subsidy. K Ramaswami, a civil servant, it was published in the Journal of Political Economy in Prior to this paper, the optimality of free trade was theoretically under siege from a variety of arguments, ranging from infant industry protection to wage rigidities and spillovers.

The paper conceded that free trade is indeed not optimal in the presence of distortions in the economy. But if the distortions can be corrected by the appropriate policy instrument, the optimality of free trade is restored—a result that holds up in most cases. For example, if there is a production externality, free trade may indeed be suboptimal, but if you can provide a subsidy to boost the production of the externality-generating activity, free trade remains the best policy.

Published several years later, these papers show that production efficiency should not be violated as long as consumption taxes are available to address whatever objectives policymakers wish to meet, or distortions they wish to address.

These were difficult economic times in India, where he was one of the economic advisers to the Indian government: after years of slow growth, the shock of a widespread drought, combined with a largely indifferent response from the international community to calls for financial assistance, left India facing a serious economic crisis. Gandhi followed the advice of her economic advisers, including Bhagwati, and devalued the currency, with all its attendant complications. His departure from India was seen by some as an academic fleeing the scene, because his advice could not "bear too much reality.

Productive years of scholarship followed for the next few years as he, along with his collaborators, notably Ramaswami and T. Srinivasan, set about systematizing the theory of trade, distortions, and welfare. His theoretical work extended to preferential trade agreements, comparing the effects of tariffs and import quotas, and the political economy of trade. In , he returned to Columbia, where he has spent the greater part of his academic career. Bhagwati, the trade theorist, might say that he has absolute advantage in theory and policy, but no clear comparative advantage.

This translates as: he is better than everyone else at both but it is difficult to make out which he is relatively better at. Perhaps his earliest, and most influential, policy contribution is on development and development strategy. His books on India, first with his wife Padma Desai , and later with Srinivasan , systematically analyze and catalogue the problems with economic planning and the costs of inward-oriented policies.

Trade and development : essays in honour of Jagdish Bhagwati

This body of work helped lay the intellectual foundation for the subsequent abandonment by many countries, including India, of dirigiste and autarkic economic policies. In the early s, Bhagwati started getting interested in the political economy of trade policy. This led to his highly popular book, "Protectionism," which examined trade policy in terms of three underlying determinants—ideas, interests, and institutions, weaving analysis, anecdotes, and facts.