The Power of Productivity: Wealth, Poverty, and the Threat to Global Stability

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The Power of Productivity: Wealth, Poverty, and the Threat to Global Stability

By William W. Lewis
University of Chicago Press, 2004
312 pp. $28.00
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Since 1990, the McKinsey Global Institute has undertaken a series of industry-level productivity studies around the world to uncover the impediments to the use of "best practice" management and technology -- and hence to determine why productivity is often less than what it could be. Lewis, founding director of the mgi, synthesizes those findings and offers his analysis of how productivity (and living standards) can be raised in developing countries, represented here primarily by Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, and South Korea. The result is a "bottom up" analysis of productivity (as opposed to the usual macroeconomic approach) that is fascinating, diverse, and complex. There is no single impediment to improved productivity, but rather a host of related obstacles. Serious competition, however, is usually a necessary condition for improving techniques, and serious competition is unlikely to occur without a national mindset that accords a higher value to consumers than it does to producers. Lewis also argues that a large government is almost inevitably beholden to special interests (i.e., producers) -- and is thus typically a major impediment to competition.