Kanaan reviews the vision that economic theory offers for the role of the state, whereby sustainable development defines the goals of economic policy. His paper shows how both the views of thinkers in the field of economics, and the economic policies pursued by states have been subject to change, and how over the past decades these have alternated between contradictory trends. It then examines how practical experience registered by high-performance economies, especially in East Asia, has proven the fallibility of neo-liberal policies. The basis of the Washington Consenus (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the US Treasury Department) sought to promote, among countries aspiring to escape poverty and underdevelopment, a specific policy. In promoting the replacement of state policies with others more slanted toward control of the market, the Washington Consensus problematically strived to remedy deficiencies in market performance, through optimization of the distribution of development tasks to public and private sectors, and to the shared public-private domain.