But as Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard has shown, most commodity-dependent exporters have managed to get their fiscal acts together, and were thus able to expand demand with "counter-cyclical" stimulus policies during the last recession. Chile has led the way with a remarkably sophisticated law that largely forces the government to build fiscal reserves when the price of Chile's premier export -- copper -- is high, and allows it to spend down the fund when copper declines. More generally, Frankel argues, developing countries are getting better at buffering export price fluctuations because they are building credible government institutions for managing their economies.
There is no real need to choose between these explanations. By virtue of their size and diversification, emerging market economies have now more influence on the economic fortunes of other emerging-market and developing economies. And by virtue of their improving track records as credible inflation-fighters, they have more capacity to use fiscal and monetary stimulus to stay ahead of global recessions.
This is surely good news. But it does leave a big unanswered question. The big emerging market countries are acquiring the will and the way to protect their own interests during global economic crises. We don't know, though, whether they will have sufficiently broad perspective to step up to leadership roles in managing global crises as their economic power converges with that of the rich industrial countries.