Marc Melitz, Stephen Redding, 28 July 2021

International trade is a key determinant of firm profitability and survival, so it is natural to expect it to influence both incentives to innovate and the rate of creative destruction. This column highlights four key mechanisms through which international trade affects endogenous innovation and growth: market size, competition, comparative advantage, and knowledge spillovers. Each of these mechanisms offers potential static and dynamic welfare gains. Discriminating between alternative mechanisms for these dynamic welfare gains and strengthening the evidence on their quantitative magnitude remain exciting areas of ongoing research.

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The Power of Creative Destruction: Economic Upheaval and the Wealth of Nations

Monday 28th June, 2021
09:00-10:00 EDT (Washington)
14:00-15:00 BST (London)
15:00-16:00 CEST (Paris)

Crisis seems to follow crisis. Inequality is rising, growth is stagnant, the environment is suffering, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed every crack in the system. We hear more and more calls for radical change, even the overthrow of capitalism. But the answer to our problems is not revolution. The answer is to create a better capitalism by understanding and harnessing the power of creative destruction?innovation that disrupts, but that over the past two hundred years has also lifted societies to previously unimagined prosperity.

To explain, Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin, and Simon Bunel draw on cutting-edge theory and evidence to examine today's most fundamental economic questions, including the roots of growth and inequality, competition and globalization, the determinants of health and happiness, technological revolutions, secular stagnation, middle-income traps, climate change, and how to recover from economic shocks. They show that we owe our modern standard of living to innovations enabled by free-market capitalism. But we also need state intervention with the appropriate checks and balances to simultaneously foster ongoing economic creativity, manage the social disruption that innovation leaves in its wake, and ensure that yesterday's superstar innovators don't pull the ladder up after them to thwart tomorrow's. A powerful and ambitious reappraisal of the foundations of economic success and a blueprint for change, The Power of Creative Destruction shows that a fair and prosperous future is ultimately ours to make.

Join the author Philippe Aghion and panellists Ufuk Akcigit, Sir Richard Blundell and Bronwyn Hall in a discussion on this newly published book.

Register online

Mathieu Cros, Anne Epaulard, Philippe Martin, 04 March 2021

Concerns have emerged that public support to firms in the COVID-19 crisis has been too generous, reducing exit of unproductive firms and preventing Schumpeterian creative destruction. Using data on French firm failures in 2020, this column suggests that these concerns are, at this stage, unwarranted. Although the number of firms filing for bankruptcy was well below its normal level, the same factors that predicted firm failures in 2019 – primarily low productivity and debt – were at work in a similar way in 2020. Overall, the findings point to hibernation rather than zombification.

Rabah Arezki, Rachel Yuting Fan, Ha Nguyen, 29 June 2019

The debate on the middle-income trap has largely focused on East Asia and Pacific countries, but the countries of Middle East and North Africa have significantly lower growth, which drops at an earlier level of income. The column argues that one factor is MENA's slow adoption of general purpose technologies. Barriers to the adoption of such technologies in key sectors could be an important transmission channel for the middle-income trap.

Bo Becker, Victoria Ivashina, 28 March 2019

In the past 30 years, defaults on corporate bonds in the US have been substantially above the historical average. Using firm-level data, this column shows that the increase in credit risk can be largely attributed to an increase in the rate at which new and fast-growing firms displace incumbents, a phenomenon defined as ‘disruption’. Incumbent revenue growth suffers when there are many IPOs in an industry, and newly issued bonds in high-disruption industries have higher yields.

Gert Bijnens, Jozef Konings, 19 July 2018

Evidence from the US indicates that business dynamism is declining, and that this affects overall productivity growth. This column explores business dynamism in Belgium between 1985 and 2014. The results show remarkable similarities to those from the US, suggesting that these changes are likely due to global trends such as the rise of information and communication technology.

Nicholas Crafts, Alex Klein, 12 December 2017

The geography of industrial production changed dramatically during the 20th century both across and within countries. This column provides new estimates of changes in the spatial concentration of US manufacturing from 1880 to 1997. The average level across all industries fell by more than half over the period. Although creative destruction has had a strong spatial component, almost all industries can be described as significantly spatially concentrated at all times. 

Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, Timo Boppart, Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 16 August 2017

Slowing growth of total factor productivity has led some to suggest that the world is running out of ideas for innovation. This column suggests that the way output is measured is vital to assessing this, and quantifies the role of imputation in output measurement bias. By differentiating between truly ‘new’ and incumbent products, it finds missing growth in the US economy. Accounting for this missing growth will allow statistical offices to improve their methodology and more readily recognise the ready availability of new ideas, but also has implications for optimal growth and inflation targeting policies.

Dan Andrews, Chiara Criscuolo, Peter Gal, 27 March 2017

Even before the Global Crisis, productivity growth had slowed in many OECD countries. This column argues that the global slowdown at the aggregate level masks a deterioration in both productivity growth within firms and a process of creative destruction. Using a cross-country firm-level database for 24 countries, the authors reveal an increasing productivity gap between the global frontier and laggard firms, fewer exits by weak firms, and a decline in entry. These problems have been compounded by the failure of policy to encourage the diffusion of best practices in OECD countries.

Hirofumi Uchida, Arito Ono, 11 February 2015

It seems like natural disasters should harm the economy by destroying lives and capital. This column investigates the extent to which disasters can lead to creative destruction through ‘natural selection’ of the fittest firms. Surprisingly, the rate of closure due to bankruptcy decreases – perhaps due to aid. Firm exits following the Tohoku earthquake were predominantly voluntary closures, with firms seizing the moment in order to leave an ageing market.

Lant Pritchett, Lawrence H. Summers, 11 December 2014

Dozens of nations think they are in the ‘middle-income trap’. Lant Pritchett and Larry Summers present new evidence that this trap is actually just growth reverting to its mean. This matters since belief in the ‘trap’ can lead governments to misinterpret current challenges. For lower-middle-income nations the 21st century beckons, but there are still 19th century problems to address. Moreover, sustaining rapid growth requires both parts of creative destruction, but only one is popular with governments and economic elites.

Yoonsoo Lee, Toshihiko Mukoyama, 07 January 2008

It is commonly believed that business cycles ‘cleanse’ industry with waves of creative destruction. New research shows that entry is higher in booms than busts, but exit rates and the type of exiting firms, are steady over the cycle. Plants entering during recessions, however, are larger and more productive –‘creative entry’ rather than ‘creative destruction’.

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