*The Next Convergence*

The authors is Michael Spence (yes, the Michael Spence and he used to be “A. Michael Spence”) and the subtitle is The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World.  The book’s home page is here.

I enjoyed reading this book.  It is an entirely sensible take on catch-up growth, a topic which is lacking a good popular treatment and yet deserves one.  I found each of the short chapters well-written and to the point.  Yet I came away from the work with a strange feeling: I don’t have a good sense of why Spence wrote the book.  It doesn’t flex his Nobel-quality analytic mental abilities (unlike this recent piece he wrote), nor is it a rank popularization.  It doesn’t promote a “big idea” that his name will be attached to, nor is Spence moving in the Stiglitz or Krugman directions, either politically or in terms of level of pitch.  I don’t understand what the book is supposed to be signaling.

I also was baffled when Spence agreed to take on a Deanship, at the peak of his economics research career.  Doesn’t one do well academically, in part, to say no to meetings, and to avoid becoming a Dean?  Apparently not in this case.

I have no good theory of A. Michael Spence, or for that matter of Michael Spence.

Since his seminal papers and book on signaling, there has been no more important idea in economics.

I see Michael Spence, and A. Michael Spence, as among the most interesting economists out there.  They remain ciphers to me, enjoyable ciphers but ciphers nonetheless.


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