A World without Agriculture
HENRY WENDT LECTURE

Until very recently, the world was overwhelmingly agrarian and poor; today, an increasing number of developed societies are both overwhelmingly affluent and urban. But the role of agriculture in economic development presents a paradox. On the one hand, the transition out of agriculture is essential for the "structural transformation" that leads to mass prosperity--history is clear on this message. On the other hand, political measures to force rapid industrialization at the expense of agriculture cause the poor to suffer, and actually slow the overall pace of development.

In this sixth Henry Wendt Lecture, C. Peter Timmer, professor at Stanford University, warns that "a world without agriculture" as envisioned by many contemporary development economists is not the path to reduced hunger and poverty in those countries most at risk. Today, Timmer argues, poor countries tend to undervalue the role of their agricultural sectors in stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty--not always the same thing--while rich countries provide massive and distorting subsidies and protection to their own farmers. These circumstances can only be explained by the intersection of forces driven by the historical process of structural transformation and the political backlash generated by widening income gaps between rural and urban households. Getting agriculture “moving” in poor countries will be a crucial key to global poverty reduction in the years ahead, and understanding the complex political economy of agriculture in rich and poor countries will be instrumental in this effort.

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About the Author

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt
  • Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His books range from The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999) to The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008).

     

  • Phone: 202.862.5825
    Email: eberstadt@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alex Coblin
    Phone: 202.419.5215
    Email: alex.coblin@aei.org

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