International Organization

False Prophet, or Genuine Savior? Assessing the Effects of Economic Openness on Sustainable Development, 1980–99

Indra  de Soysa  a1 and Eric  Neumayer  a2
a1 Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway,
a2 London School of Economics and Political Science, London,

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de soysa i   [Google Scholar] 
neumayer e   [Google Scholar] 


While many herald globalization—the increasing interconnectedness of national economies—to be associated with rising standards of living across the globe, others fear its effects on sustainability. Antiglobalization forces and environmentalists view these developments as a threat to the welfare of future generations because of profligate and excessive current consumption. This study is the first to estimate the effects of dependence on trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and an index of economic freedom on the World Bank's measure of sustainability (the genuine savings rate), which measures the rate at which investment in the total stock of manufactured, human, and natural capital exceeds its depreciation. Contrary to pessimists' fears, our indicators of economic openness show positive effects on sustainability, results that are robust to sample size, testing procedure, and several alternative specifications. The results support those who suggest that distorted economies tend to be both inefficient and damaging to future generations. If increasing trade, FDI, and economic freedom are hallmarks of globalization, then worries about its effects on future well-being are misplaced. a


a Equal authorship. We are grateful to Erich Weede, Rick Auty, Simon Dietz, Paul Hensel, Jonathan Moses, Ragnar Torvik, Jostein Vik, Paivi Lujala, two reviewers, and the editor for comments and suggestions. The anonymous reviewers were extraordinarily constructive. Any remaining errors are entirely our fault. The data are available at [left angle bracket][right angle bracket].