Bloomberg/ Getty Images

A Good Economy for China

Optimizing its resource allocation is far from all that China must do to boost prosperity. It is time to focus on workers and elevating the experience of their labor, the importance of which economists from Adam Smith to Karl Marx and Alfred Marshall have placed at the center of their concerns.

NEW YORK – Decades of plodding growth together with the 2008 financial crisis have prompted a seismic shift in economic thinking in much of the world. There is talk of moving resources from investment to consumption, from heavy industry to “services,” and from private sector to public sector. But what strikes me is that these arguments focus only on improving the mix of outputs within an economy, with no attention paid to labor.

This is obvious in the case of China, now the world’s biggest economy by some measures. No doubt, China must reject further investment in hulking steel mills and empty apartment buildings. At the same time, however, it must focus on workers and elevating the experience of their work, which economists from Adam Smith to Karl Marx and Alfred Marshall placed at the center of their concerns.

Not everyone agrees. When it comes to the experience of work, many – especially in continental Europe – believe that optimal allocation (entailing well-functioning institutions), if accompanied by investment in education, is all that is needed. After all, the Italians, Germans, and French work hard and well over a relatively small number of hours, resulting in high hourly productivity and wages – higher than in the United States and the United Kingdom.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/igBYAk6;

Handpicked to read next

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.