The concepts of competition and its derivatives, competitiveness and competitive advantage feature as highly on the current development agendas and policy debates of developing countries as they do in the developed world, yet they are sufficiently opaque to make any discussion of the relationship between economic development and competition a matter to be negotiated with some difficulty. In this short essay we review some recent thinking on the connection between competition and development as a prelude to a study of wider concerns about innovation, income distribution, competition and development policy. The position we take is that the problems of competitiveness and economic development are isomorphic by virtue of being examples of the phenomenon of economic evolution. Economic evolution is a theory of how the world changes or rather how it changes in such an uneven fashion. We review ideas on the history of the concept of competition and go on to develop an evolutionary approach to competition and competitive advantage. We then review a number of important contributions to the development literature including those associated with the idea of innovation and technology policy. We conclude that competition is central to the development process but that competition is a process not a state of affairs. Consequently competition policy is not reducible to a simpleminded concern with the exploitation of market power, rather in its fundamentals it is a matter of the creativity of an economic system.
Manchester, UK, CRC Working Paper, No. 36, 43 pp.