Whatever the secret, it doesn't appear that it was simply a case of creating nirvana for private sector growth. The average 2010 ranking among the world's 19 fastest-growing countries on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index, which measures the conduciveness of a country's regulatory environment to starting a new firm, was 114 out of 183. Even among those nine countries that don't owe their growth to extractive industries, five -- including India and Ethiopia -- had a ranking below 100. That result echoes the conclusions of economists Dani Rodrik, Ricardo Hausmann, and Lant Pritchett. They looked at 80 periods of "growth acceleration" where an economy increased its growth rate by 2 percent or more for at least seven years. Nearly all were unrelated to economic reforms including liberalization of trade and prices.
And just as the causes of economic growth varied considerably among these countries, so did the associated consequences. Not least, the link between income growth and improvements in the broader quality of life was incredibly weak in a number of cases. Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda all combined their top-19 placing in economic performance with a top-19 global ranking in terms of adding years to life expectancy over the decade; on average, a child born in 2010 will now live six years longer than one born in 2000. But while Equatorial Guinea may have been first in the world in GDP expansion, it was 109th in terms of extending health, adding less than two years to life expectancy over the decade. That poor performance was doubtless related to the fact that Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was considerably more concerned with ensuring his son was well stocked with fast cars and fancy boats than with ensuring that health systems in his country operated at even the lowest levels of efficiency. In Obiang's defense, Chad, Turkmenistan, and Belarus did even worse in the rankings -- and, more surprising, so did China, which added only 1.8 years to predicted lifespan at birth.
Even if the causes and related impacts of growth varied, however, it is pretty clear that the United States was a beneficiary. In terms of national security, the list includes a number of countries that may have moved some distance further away from failed-state status thanks to their development performance. And a bad decade for the U.S. economy would have been even worse without these high-flying performers. In some cases, their expansion was built on growing exports of raw materials and oil that kept prices lower -- for Americans and everyone else -- than they otherwise would have been. In others, particularly China and India, it was built in part on the export of cheap goods and services to the American consumer. And in most cases, the growth created considerably larger markets for U.S. industry. According to data from the U.S. International Trade Administration, U.S. exports to the 19 fastest-growing economies grew approximately fivefold in current dollars between 2000 and 2010, to $119 billion.
So, however weak U.S. economic performance looks in comparison, Americans should be cheering on these countries to another decade of record growth. And they should be doing their part to help that happen: keeping trade open, and allowing ideas, money, and (most importantly) people to move back and forth with greater ease. The best way to extend the Amerislump for another decade would be to do the opposite.