Professor Leonard Wantchekon gave the Sir Arthur Lewis lecture in Development Economics organized by the National Economic Association at the Allied Social Sciences Association Conference, in San Antonio, on January 5, 2024. Sir W. Arthur Lewis Memorial Lecture recognizes an economist who has produced seminal research on economic development or made a significant contribution to economic development through public service.

The title: "State Capacity, Institutional Experimentation and Development" 

The abstract: Contemporary macro development scholarship explains cross-country differences in income mostly through divergent productivity (TFP), which in turn is driven by State Capacity. ((e.g., Restuccia and Rogerson, 2008; Hsieh and Klenow, 2009))  However, governments can generate political distortions that weaken state capacity. For instance, they can misallocate public investments by targeting regions or groups based on political considerations. They can also offer preferential regulation instead of promoting competition or apply discretionary contract enforcement to favor some stakeholders over others (Canen and Wantchekon, 2022). I argue that political distortions can be corrected and State capacity bolstered with some incremental changes to existing state institutions (Institutional editing) and a rigorous experimentation of the new, "edited" institutions. In particular, I  show that "inserting" a deliberation stage in democratic procedures can help strengthen state capacity and governance (Wantchekon et al, 2023, 2024; Aman-Ran aet al, 2023). This is because deliberation facilitates information sharing about preferences, and policy coordination among relevant stakeholders. It also  promotes individual and group agency. on the part of citizens. 

Leonard Wantchekon giving speech in front of audience