cover image The Quest for Prosperity: 
How Developing Economies 
Can Take Off

The Quest for Prosperity: How Developing Economies Can Take Off

Justin Yifu Lin. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-691-15589-0

In the 1960s, conventional economic thinking was that Africa had “better conditions and opportunities for economic development” than did East Asia. Lin, the chief economist and senior vice president for the World Bank from 2008 to 2012, tackles prevailing shibboleths in this provocative and challenging work. Lin argues that “different countries... require different policy choices to facilitate growth”; indeed, developing nations that progressed industrially and technologically “rarely followed... the dominant development paradigm of the time.” Lin concludes that the Soviet Stalinist model of modernization through industrialization provided a poor precedent for subsequent leaders whose zest for large capital-intensive projects was inappropriate, especially since developing nations rarely have abundant available capital. Lin focuses on the concept of comparative advantage, which indicates that nations should concentrate on “what they can produce best” and trade with other nations that do likewise. He extends this argument by linking a country’s advantage to its factor endowments—the traditional elements of land, labor, and capital, as well as infrastructure. Lin embellishes his conceptual innovations with lessons from failures, successes, and strategies for implementing these ideas. While there is no easy answer to these problems, Lin’s reminder that such development is not a “zero-sum game” suggests that his thoughtful study should resonate among international audiences. (Oct.)