Learning by Doing: Who's Learning, Who's Doing? And Other Production Function Myths

37 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2015 Last revised: 15 Sep 2016

See all articles by Santiago Jose Gangotena

Santiago Jose Gangotena

Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ

Ryan Safner

Hood College

Date Written: July 9, 2016


The success of endogenous growth models has led to the wide acceptance that increasing returns to scale (IRS) and the positive externalities of knowledge creation are inherent features of technology. This acceptance has lent justification to stylized models that espouse protectionist trade policies in order to generate economic growth. The justification for these policies, however, stems from a deeply flawed understanding of what a production function represents and the institutional conditions necessary for IRS to be present. Distinguishing between physical and institutional technology allows us to conclude that IRS are not inherent features of physical production processes, but represent the emergent outcome of entrepreneurial choices within certain institutional arrangements. We conclude by showing that IRS are not invariant with respect to protectionist policies because they hamper the institutional technology that leads to IRS and knowledge creation, and are thus unsuitable growth policies.

Keywords: Increasing returns to scale, Learning by doing, Technology, Protectionism, Entrepreneurship, Institutions

JEL Classification: F12, F13, O24, O31, O38, O43

Suggested Citation

Gangotena, Santiago Jose and Safner, Ryan, Learning by Doing: Who's Learning, Who's Doing? And Other Production Function Myths (July 9, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2626587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2626587

Santiago Jose Gangotena (Contact Author)

Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ ( email )

Diego de Robles y Vía Interoceánica
Campus Cumbayá

Ryan Safner

Hood College ( email )

401 Rosemont Avenue
Frederick, MD 21701
United States

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