This paper examines the coherence and usefulness of the contentious concept of ‘national competitiveness’. We undertake an interpretative review of the various uses of the concept in international economics. It is argued (á la Erik Reinert) that the concept of competitiveness is coherent in the presence of dynamic externalities, with a ‘winner picking’ exercise, by social planners, at its core. However, its usefulness for real-world policymaking can be limited because of practical problems (political and information imperfections) of picking the ‘real winners’. These problems are nonetheless not insurmountable. There is ample evidence that competitiveness strategies can work if they are the ‘right’ kind for a given political configuration.
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- Comparative advantage
- Increasing returns
- Industrial policy