Tag Archives: Chile

The Wealth of the Other Americas

The Industrialization of South America Revisited: Evidence from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia, 1890-2010

Gerardo della Paolera (Central European University), Xavier Durán (Universidad de los Andes), Aldo Musacchio (Brandeis University)

Abstract: We use new manufacturing GDP time series to examine the industrialization in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia since the early twentieth century. We uncover variation across countries and over time that the literature on industrialization had overlooked. Rather than providing a single explanation of how specific shocks or policies shaped the industrialization of the region, our argument is that the timing of the industrial take off was linked to initial conditions, while external shocks and macroeconomic and trade policy explain the variation in the rates of industrialization after the 1930s and favorable terms of trade and liberalization explain deindustrialization after 1990.

URL: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24345

Circulated by NEP-HIS on: 2018‒03‒19

Review by: Thales Zamberlan Pereira (Universidade Franciscana)

The long road of protectionism in Latin America in the decades between 1930 and 1990 led not only to import substitution of goods, but also of ideas. During those decades each country thought its way of development distanced from its neighbors, despite relatively similar schools of thought under the care of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The result was a myriad of studies focused on peculiarities – what made each country unique in its backwardness – largely ignoring the possibility of comparative perspectives. Of course, comparative studies existed, but the view of Latin America as an object of study until the 1980s was delegated to a secondary place, shared more by international agencies and foreign researchers who sought a more macro understanding of the region.

During the last three decades things changed, but we still feel the effects of these“lost decades”. “Intellectual isolation” was especially true in Brazil, which until today has very few university courses on the economic history of other Latin American countries. The paper of Gerardo Paolera, Xavier Durán, and Aldo Musacchio, therefore, is a much welcome attempt to understand the differences in long-term development in South America using comparative data for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. They present a history of industrialization in these countries putting together series of manufacturing value added, labor productivity in manufacturing, the size of the labor force, and trade series for the whole twentieth century (until 2010, actually). Despite arguing that they estimated new figures when the data was not available, the authors mostly use secondary sources for macroeconomic data (for example, Brazil’s data comes from IPEA, a government agency).

The paper’s main argument is that the long-term series of industrial GDP suggest that the patterns of industrialization in those countries were heterogenous, and initial conditions – such as level of urbanization, literacy and infrastructure development at the end of the 19th century – mattered more for the timing of industrial takeoff than policies or external shocks. Therefore, the authors reject traditional hypotheses that have tried to explain the industrialization of South America using “one single theory”. Among these traditional explanations are the “adverse shocks” hypothesis, industrialization as a product of export-led growth, and industrialization as the product of import substitution industrialization (ISI). The paper then proceeds to explain the differences between the four countries during the following periods: 1) before 1920, 2) the 1920s, 3) the Great Depression, 4) World War II, 5) the 1980s, 6) 1990s and beyond.

According to the paper, the long-term industrial series show that “none of these hypotheses explain all cases for the entire century.” Moreover, changes in external conditions and domestic policies explain part of the variation in the rates of industrialization only after the 1930s. In their review about the different periods of industrialization, the highlight is for the effects of ISI policies on industrialization. They present a “real distorted import price” index – which are import prices multiplied by the average tariff and the nominal exchange rate – to show the correlation between price distortion of imports and growth of manufacturing as a percentage of GDP. This correlation is widely known in the historical literature, but bringing together data for the South American countries helps us to understand the relative size of barriers to trade in each country.

Musacchio et al Fig1

Figure 1: Real Distorted Import Price Index for Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia,
1900-2012 (1939=100)

Paolera, Duran, and Musacchio’s paper is an interesting contribution, however, it is not clear how much of it is a revisionist interpretation of South America’s industrialization. It would be interesting to have a better sense about how much the literature on Latin America industrialization in the twentieth century really argues that the process was homogeneous across countries and that domestic and initial conditions did not matter. Even in books that summarize the literature, such as Bértola and Ocampo (2012) there are clear differences between the countries and initial conditions (their Human Development Index for example).

As a side note, it also feels unnecessary to argue that the countries shared similar culture, religion, and colonial origin to “control” for cross-sectional variation. Is there really a relevant connection between these conditions and different periods and types of industrialization? Besides the fact that many Argentineans, Brazilians, and Chileans will try to “argue” that they have a very different culture (and, in the case of Brazil, colonial origin), it would be good to show if the traditional hypotheses make these connections.

Moreover, since initial conditions (human capital) mattered for industrialization, why is East Asia a proper counterfactual for Latin America? The authors argue that we “need to improve our knowledge” on this issue, but it feels there is room to present more recent research about the topic, not only Robert Wade’s (1990) book: in the style of Liu (2017) and Lane (2017). Also, as a suggestion, it would be interesting to see the index for “real distorted import prices” for East Asian countries, as it would teach us something about Latin America.

The 1980s and 1990s could also have a more extensive literature review. For example, the paper argues that the improvement in terms of trade after the 1990s was associated with “some form of Dutch Disease”. However, there is not sufficient evidence to make this statement. Their measure of de-industrialization, which is a declining share of manufacturing in total GDP, is a limited way to measure de-industrialization, especially when productivity of the other sectors (like agriculture) was increasing. The lower share of manufacturing after the 1980s could also be a form of correction after the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, we still do not have a clear answer about the opportunity cost of those policies. Nevertheless, the Brazilian’s government attempt (and failure) to resuscitate the policies of the military regime in the years after 2008 shows us that the cost-benefit of industrialization at any cost in previous decades needs to be re-evaluated (as they were in Musacchio and Lazzarini 2014). After three decades of declining knowledge barriers between South American countries, perhaps it is time to “demand” the next step in historical comparative studies: micro studies.


  • Bertolá, Luis and José Antonio Ocampo’s The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Lane, Nathan. “Manufacturing Revolutions. Industrial Policy and Networks in South Korea.” Job Market Paper, Institute for International Economic Studies (IEES), 2017.
  • Liu, Ernest. “Industrial Policies in Production Networks.” Working Paper, Princeton University, 2017.
  • Musacchio, Aldo, and Sergio Lazzarini. Reinventing State Capitalism. Leviathan in Business, Brazil and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Wade, Robert. Governing the Market. Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Knowledge in Mining does matter. But not any Knowledge.

The Mining Sectors in Chile and Norway, ca. 1870 – 1940: the Development of a Knowledge Gap

By: Kristin Ranestad (University of Oslo)

Abstract: Chile and Norway are two ‘natural resource intensive economies’, which have had different development trajectories, yet are closely similar in industrial structure and geophysical conditions. The questions of how and why Chile and Norway have developed so differently are explored through an analysis of how knowledge accumulation occurred and how it was transformed by learning into technological innovation in mining, a sector which has long traditions in Norway and has been by far the largest export sector in Chile for centuries. Similar types of ‘knowledge organisations’ with the direct aim of developing knowledge for mining were developed in both countries. Formal mining education, scientifically trained professionals, organisations for technology transfer and geological mapping and ore surveys are compared in the search for differences which may explain the underlying reasons for variations in economic growth.

URL: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/heswpaper/0105.htm

Distributed by NEP-HIS on: 2016-11-13

Review by Miguel A. López-Morell (University of Murcia)

The effect of mining on the economic development of countries with abundant natural resources is a central issue of the history of economics. The question is straightforward: Why does mining have a positive effect on some countries while in others its contributions to the economic development are scant, not to mention the huge environmental problems that mineral extraction and processing generate? The “resource curse” myth does, unfortunately, hold true in most developing economies, but it is hard to take on board when we consider countries with very long mining traditions like Australia, the USA and Canada, to mention but three, and their high levels of income. There is, therefore, a need for studies that do not demonize the sector but rather search out deep causes and well-founded arguments to explain the conditions in which mining has a positive effect, or other, on development.


Mines in Antofagasta (Chile). Source: Tapia, Daniela. “Distrito Minero Centinela: La ambiciosa apuesta de Antofagasta Minerals.” Nueva Minería y Energía, November 17, 2014, link.


Kristin Ranestad approaches the issue from a comparative institutional perspective. The examples she uses, Chile and Norway, are in some ways congruent, in that both have a long mining tradition and they are not dependent countries with development problems; indeed, in terms of development per inhabitant, they are clear leaders in South America and Europe.

Ranestad identifies the similarities and differences in the levels of education of the mining engineers and technicians; the proportional presence of the latter in mining; the deployment of advanced information systems, such as scientific journals or attendance at congresses and exhibitions; the existence of study travels and work abroad; and the intensity of geological mapping and ore surveys.

The conclusions Ranestad draws leave little room for doubt. All the above facets that affect technological knowledge in modern mining are to be found in both countries, yet there are important differences in terms of quality and quantity, with Norway always coming out on top, except in terms of university education. Chile loses out as there is no direct relationship between the size of the mining sector and the level of development of other factors, where it trails Norway by some way.

The reasons, although not explained in depth here, lie to a large extent in the presence of large North American groups like Kennecot or Anaconda in Chile since the First World War. These controlled the huge deposits of Chuquicamata or El Teniente, where they introduced modern mining production technologies that boosted export capacity, although they always acted in isolation. At the same time, there was a large group of small and medium size Chilean mines that was working with minimum technology, almost non-existent externalities and a highly deficient exploitation of the deposits, which were frequently abandoned well before they had been fully exploited with the technology of the time. In contrast, Norway was streets ahead in all aspects and its mines were far more diversified and making far better use of their resources. They were also far more in tune with the economic environment.

The approach seems to be an interesting one since economic historians frequently, and mistakenly, argue in favor of the importance of quickly reaching historical landmarks that affect institutional and technological development, while overlooking the real significance of these for the production system. We tend to give an overwhelming importance to the age of technical schools, professional associations or scientific publications rather than to reflect more on how much influence they have had and how mature they are.

There may be some question marks hanging over Ranestad’s figures for the numbers of active engineers in each country. According to her reasoning and to the sources consulted, the argument stems from the idea that training was an endogenous affair since she draws on the mining schools’ own records to fix the figures of engineers. So we cannot, on the basis of the information provided, know what percentage of engineers had been trained abroad. In Spain, for example, which was a leading mining power at the time, there was a relatively high number of engineers who had studied abroad prior to the Second World War. Indeed, foreigners and Spaniards who had studied abroad accounted for some 250 mining engineers, according to one database constructed using the annuals of mining engineers, even though it did not include man professionals working in large companies in Spain, like Rio Tinto Co, Tharsis, la Asturiana or Peñarroya, which did not even bother to inform about such matters (see Bertilorenzi, Passaqui and Garçon 2016, pp. 143-162). The author herself, when talking about foreign engineers, notes: “However, their dominance was negative in the sense that the lack of collaboration with domestic engineers and leaders prevented knowledge transfer within the sector”. Yet she does not back this up with hard figures.

Nevertheless, her contribution is a valuable one which affords a novel approach that is perfectly applicable to other works of comparative economic history. In the case of Chile, there is no explanation of the differences to the sector following the nationalization of the copper industry between 1853 and 1971. In perspective, though, it is not comparable with the Norwegian situation in the sense of the sector’s capacity to transfer knowledge to other sectors and to the country as a whole. A prime example is Orkla, which is today a huge, widely diversified conglomerate that has little do to with mining, but which in the 1920s produced copper and pyrites more profitably than its competitors, despite its mineral being 10% poorer in quality. It would even sell technology to Rio Tinto, no less. It would also be worthwhile analyzing whether the nationalization of copper mining and the government control of oil in Norway have had similar repercussions for the inhabitants of each country. A starting point would be to ask Chilean pensioners whether they have similar benefits to their Norwegian counterparts, even though the answer does seem foregone.


Bertilorenzi, Marco; Passaqui, Jean-Philippe and Garçon, Anne-Françoise (dirs.) (2016) Entre technique et gestion, une histoire des « ingénieurs civils des mines » (XIXe-XXe siècles).París, Press des mines

Harvey, C. and Press, J. (1989) “Overseas Investment and the Professional Advance of British Metal Mining Engineers, 1851 – 1914”, Economic History Review 1989, 42 (1) pp. 64-86.

Mokyr, Joel (2002) The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rosenberg, Nathan (1982) Inside the Black Box: Technology and Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.