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A traditional explanation for the persistent poverty of many less developed countries is that they lack objects such as natural resources or capital goods. But Japan had little of either in 1950 and still has few natural resources, so something else must be involved. Increasingly, emphasis is shifting to the notion that it is ideas, not objects, that poor countries lack. The knowledge needed to provide citizens of the poorest countries with a vastly improved standard of living already exists in the advanced countries. If a poor nation invests in education and does not destroy the incentives for its citizens to acquire ideas from the rest of the world, it can rapidly take advantage of the publicly available part of the worldwide stock of knowledge.

— Paul Romer, ...