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Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Tipping Point: Fascinating but Mythological?

The “tipping point” is a popular concept covering a whole range of phenomena (and a best-selling book by Malcolm Gladwell) where individual behavior depends on the behavior of the herd.

Its original application was to racial segregation. Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling developed a beautifully simple model for this. Suppose that whites have different degrees of racism – some would “tolerate” higher shares of nonwhites than others. Schelling showed that the less racist whites would…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Economics principles | 17 Comments

I face my own critics

It’s only fair that I respond to my critics, in the same way I ask others to respond to my criticisms. A comment by Jeff on the poverty tourism controversy was particularly negative, but also succinct and eloquent, and his concerns seem to overlap with those expressed by other, so I will respond to Jeff directly. I put his comments in bold and my response in italics.

The main take away from this blog in

Posted in Meta | 15 Comments

The US Army fights me back! — in a nice peaceful way

The following is the text of an email I received today after asking Lieutenant General William Caldwell IV for comment as one of the authors of the United States Army’s Manual with some economic development ideas that I criticized:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: FOUO

Dear Dr. Easterly,

LTG Caldwell is currently on personal leave and not regularly receiving

email.

This is a very important topic to him — the manual to which you refer

represents…

Posted in Military aid | 7 Comments

Response to MV tourism operator on “Should starving people be tourist attractions?”

Dear Michael (or Dr. Grosspietsch, whichever you prefer):

Thanks for taking the time to respond, which is very admirable in itself (I am still waiting a week later to hear from the US Army Lieutenant General William Caldwell IV on the Army’s approach to development.)

I have also read the comments on both my post and yours on Aid Watch, and I have read the post of Donald Ndahiro, the local…

Posted in Cognitive biases | 24 Comments

Response from tourism operator to “Should starving people be tourist attractions”

Dear William,

While it is generally a pleasure to get to know you, the circumstances are rather sad. I thank you, nevertheless, for inviting me personally to respond to your blog. I’m the Director of the Eos Visions network that got under fire here and – and I’m happy to admit it – the author of the brochure that you and several of your commentators criticize to a point that verges on insult.

I…

Posted in Grand plans and aid targets, Poverty | 22 Comments

Should starving people be tourist attractions?

millennium-village-tourist.gif

Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade on the Huffington Post touched a raw nerve about condescension towards Africans. She noted that a tourism operator was marketing one of Jeff Sachs’ Millennium Villages (MVs) as a vacation destination and quoted from the brochure “Please do not give anything to the villagers — no sweets.”

I decided to look more into the MV tourism project, not to pile on, but because I believe patronizing attitudes towards Africans…

Posted in Cognitive biases, Poverty | Tagged , | 41 Comments

J’accuse: the US Army’s Development Delusions

soldiersinIraq.gif

A wise economist that I met recently tipped me off that I would find the latest Army field manual interesting reading. He was more than right about that. The 2009 US ARMY STABILITY OPERATIONS FIELD MANUAL (available in a University of Michigan paperback as well as an earlier version online ) is remarkably full of utopian dreams of transforming other societies into oases of prosperity, peace, and democracy through the coordinated use…

Posted in Democracy and freedom, Grand plans and aid targets | 11 Comments

Links to other blogs to make you taller, happier, smarter

Secret to development is to be taller! taller makes you happier, richer, smarter – thanks a lot from us short people, tall Anne Case and Angus Deaton!

False pessimism exposé: American children still doing better than their parents (Café Hayek) are they taller?

FT first newspaper to figure out that other countries’ banking crisis experience might be relevant (Brazil) and that it might help to consult experts on such experience (Ross…

Posted in In the news | 1 Comment

Fund for Unsolvable Problems: is the IMF the new UN?

Scarcely another G-8 handshake goes by without piling another responsibility on the International Monetary Fund. The communiqué after the latest G8 Finance Ministers’ meeting last weekend asked the Fund to help devise “exit strategies” from stimulus at the exact right time in the exact right manner, which nobody knows and the G-8 cannot agree upon. Then they asked IMF should do more concessional lending to poor countries. So the IMF is only being put in…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Organizational behavior | Tagged | 1 Comment

A $3 million book with 8 readers? The impact of donor-driven research

One of aid donors’ less discussed activities is financing research. The Global Development Network (GDN) is probably the best known effort, a World Bank-sponsored effort to promote development research by researchers in the developing world, founded in December 1999, with an annual budget now of over $9 million (roughly the same as the entire annual budget for all National Science Foundation (NSF) funding of all economics research). In GDN’s own words, it exists to…

Posted in Data and statistics | 7 Comments