One point Charles Kenny makes in The Success of Development that I’ve also seen argued convincingly in other contexts is that public policy choices seem to matter less than people would lead you to believe. This is a particularly striking fact:
Looking more broadly at the experience of the communist bloc under communism, over the period 1950-1988, no East European country grew as slowly as the UK, Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, the US, Australia, India, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Argentina or Venezuela.
People right sometimes about the poor policy choices that led to Argentina’s poor growth performance in the 20th century. But it’s hard to make the case that Argentina was following worse policies during this period than Poland. Also: “Between 1928 and 1937, at the same time as farms were brutally collectivized, famine killed as many as 10 million people in the Ukraine, and Stalin‘s great terror was unleashed, the Soviet Union was the fastest growing country in the world.”
NB: I am not advocating Stalin-style economic policies.