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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 22 maggio 2013 alle ore 18:06.


HONG KONG – Too often, debate about the relationship between the state and the market casts them as opposing forces locked in a zero-sum struggle. But this simplistic approach quickly turns constructive discussion into a casualty of the ideological battle between advocates of state and market capitalism.

A more useful framework would view the state and the market as two sides of the same coin, bound together by the property-rights infrastructure (PRI). The state interacts with the market – the realm of private, voluntary exchange of property rights – in three main ways.

First, the state transacts with the private sector through taxation and expenditure. Second, it establishes and maintains the PRI, which includes all of the institutions needed to delineate, exchange, fine-tune, and protect (through enforcement of law and contracts) property rights. Among these institutions are the judiciary and arbitration panels, which function not only to adjudicate property-rights disputes, but also to address administrative abuses and disputes between the private and public sectors. Finally, the state competes with the private sector via state-owned enterprises and utilities.

Given that an effective PRI safeguards market order and stability, the market needs a strong state to manage it. This means that whether a government is big or small is less important than how well it manages the PRI – that is, whether the state is able to ensure high-quality market order.

Current policy debates have largely neglected this aspect of the state’s role, because Western thinkers take their countries’ PRI for granted, especially their regulatory and judicial systems, which have benefited from hundreds of years of development. But these countries’ experience is entirely different from that of developing economies, which are under intense pressure to build a sound PRI quickly.

For a large economy like China – which has overlapping bureaucracies in different state agencies, and many layers of government extending from the central administration to local units – creating a transparent, fair, and effective PRI is particularly complex. As a state-led economy moves toward a market-based system, policymakers are faced with a difficult choice: pursue policies associated with immediate and rapid GDP growth, or seek the longer-term, less visible benefits of PRI development.

When China began this transition, its central and local governments focused on building physical infrastructure, such as roads and electricity grids, which delivered tangible gains. But it was the state’s less visible investment in the country’s institutional infrastructure that had the biggest impact on China’s GDP growth. Over the last three decades, the government has created a transitory but effective PRI to remove barriers to market entry, define new property rights, and mimic international rules, thereby facilitating external trade and enabling foreign multinationals to operate effectively in China.

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