Editing error or recursive construction, Take 2

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Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, "Growth slowdowns: Middle-income trap vs. regression to the mean", Vox 12/11/2014:

No question is more important for the living standards of billions of people or for the evolution of the global system than the question of how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation.

Is this a slip of the fingers (e.g. for "how rapidly different economies will grow")? Or do the authors really mean a sort of second derivative,  "how rapidly differently economies will grow" meaning something like "at what rate the growth rates of economies will diverge"?



  1. Dick Margulis said,

    December 14, 2014 @ 7:40 am

    I vote for simple editing error (or, more likely, lack of editing altogether). I think the meaning is "how rapidly various economies will grow."

  2. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 14, 2014 @ 8:16 am

    I agree.

  3. Robot Therapist said,

    December 14, 2014 @ 8:51 am


  4. Victor Mair said,

    December 14, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    I add my vote to those of Dick Margulis, Ralph Hickok, and Robot Therapist.

    I just read through the Vox article quickly, and it really is about "how rapidly different economies will grow over the next generation", not about "how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation". Even if we grant that the latter formulation is grammatically parsable, it strains credulity to imagine that economists such as Lant Pritchett and Lawrence H. Summers would be thinking in such terms.

    By the way, I'm grateful to Mark for making this post, because it alerted me to the Vox article, which has a lot of important things to say about the Chinese economy, and it is very unlikely that I would have learned about the Vox article were it not for this post.

    In preparing this brief note, I looked up the entry for Summers in Wikpedia and found that his mother and father were both economists at Penn, and that he is the nephew of two Nobel laureates in economics, Paul Samuelson (MIT) and Kenneth Arrow (Stanford).

    Permit me to tell a personal anecdote about Larry Summers. When he was president of Harvard University, I spent the better part of one day in his office with him and a small group of professors (one flown in from the other Cambridge) and administrators serving on what Harvard calls an "ad hoc committee" to determine whether or not a certain faculty member should be granted tenure.

    "Joining the Ranks: Demystifying Harvard's Tenure System"


    The things that impressed me most about Summers were his jovial nature, his penetrating blue eyes, and his vast capacity for Diet Coke. During the course of the day, I was astonished by how many cans of Diet Coke Summers consumed. I'd call him a "chain drinker" of Diet Coke, in that, as soon as he finished one can, he'd automatically pull the tab of the next one. At one point in our deliberations, the meeting was interrupted when Summers summoned an aide to bring in a supply of several more cans.

    The Diet Coke and blue eyes are also mentioned in this article, though here the Diet Coke is in a bottle:

    "Lunch with the FT: Larry Summers"


  5. Mr Punch said,

    December 14, 2014 @ 10:31 am

    It's possible, though less likely, that what was intended was substitution of "differently" for "rapidly."

  6. cM said,

    December 15, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    Wow – I haven't been as "difference-blind" as this in a very long time:
    I just stared at the quotation and the suggested reading (the one in parentheses) for about two minutes, and couldn't for the life of me see any difference between the two. Or, for that matter, between those two and the third time the sentence occurs.

    I was just about to give up and paste the lines in a diff tool when I noticed the additional "ly".

    Damn you, mental autocorrect!

    This probably wouldn't have happened to me with a printout – I still can't properly proofread on a computer screen.
    And it's not because I don't want to: keeping track of revisions of a document in dead-tree form is a huge pain, especially with multiple people working on it.

    I still haven't figured out the reason for this. There has to be one.

  7. Piero said,

    December 15, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

    Or maybe, they originally wrote "differently rapidly", referring to how different the *speed* of growth (the growth rate) would be across countries. Some countries grow more rapidly, other less rapidly, hence one can claim countries grow "differently" rapidly. Which is ugly as an expression, but an accurate one. The change in the order could be attributed to an editor. Economics (and my own field, political science/political economy) might use ugly language, but at least it tries to be accurate. Editors always suggest to sacrifice accuracy for "less ugly" wording.

  8. Craig Clarke said,

    December 17, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

    As a copyeditor, I understand how the eye wants this to be an error, but the meaning is clear: that economies will experience rapidly different growth, or will grow rapidly differently.

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