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Monthly Archives: September 2009

My own market experiment: where I am IN or OUT

Last week, some people wanted to meet up with me at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York. I was a little embarrassed to tell them I was not invited to CGI, and in fact have never been invited to CGI. Actually, there is a long list of distinguished groups wise enough to have never invited me to anything.

I think each of us who makes some kind of public comment on anything…

Posted in Meta | 15 Comments

The Newest Global Religion

The world economy with its multiple crises is a frightening place. To confront our fears, we have a new global religion. It developed slowly over the last couple decades, based on the sacred writings of the world’s leading shamans. The shamans have been releasing a new scripture of prophecy and comfort every year after secluding themselves in a remote location for several days of prayer and reflection.

There used to be only seven of these…

Posted in Grand plans and aid targets | 7 Comments

We must know how many are suffering, so let’s make up numbers

As major world leaders jet from the UN General Assembly yesterday to the Pittsburgh G-20 today, the UN and World Bank have bombarded them with messages and statistics about the effect of the crisis on the global poor:

(1) We need to know how many are suffering where, so that help can be targeted to those in most need,

(2) Here are our precise numbers of how many additional poor have been created by the…

Posted in Data and statistics | 19 Comments

Fake it till you make it

A new report slams the UK’s aid agency with accusations of spending money on “Fake Aid.” Produced by the London-based International Policy Network (IPN), “Fake Aid” casts a critical eye on the agency’s communications programming, finding that “increasing amounts of DfID funds are channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to fund lobbying activities, marketing and the promotion of political ideology, often within the UK.” The report uses DfID documents to show that the aid agency…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Celebrities finally swamp advocacy market — an application of economic theory

After a string of deadly serious blogs on random variables and statistical evidence, industrial policy, the history of development thought, and Afghanistan issues, I think I’ve earned a break to do another (hopefully the last) in our popular series on celebrity advocacy.

To keep a bit of seriousness, though, I’m going to propose a theory of international trade between Africa and celebrities. Africa exports stereotypical images of misery in return for celebrities’ advocacy for more…

Posted in Badvocacy and celebs | 21 Comments

The Anarchy of Success

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books I have a review (ungated here) of:

Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.

The success of the East Asian Gang of Four—and now China—has exerted an irresistible lure to researchers of growth. Academic economists who were used to studying whether a politically difficult tax…

Posted in Big ideas | 20 Comments

Industrial Policy Showdown at World Bank: the policy that may not exist also may not work

The World Bank’s PSD Blog has a good discussion of the debate last Monday between Justin Lin (Chief Economist of the World Bank), Ann Harrison (Head of trade policy division at the Bank and well-known trade economist), and myself (random trouble-maker). The debate was very civil, and I am very grateful to Justin Lin for being so willing to debate his ideas openly (as opposed say to a former Chief Economist who forced me…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Trade | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Imperial Origins of State-Led Development

Lenin said “Imperialism is the Last Stage of Capitalism.” Globalization protesters routinely link American imperialism to promotion of capitalism overseas. For example, Naomi Klein’s 2008 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism draws a vivid connection between American interventions overseas (like the CIA overthrowing Allende in Chile, or today’s Iraq) and the promotion of free markets (“neoliberal economics”).

It’s plausible that there are sometimes connections between military interventions and the economic interests…

Posted in History | 14 Comments

How the British Invented “Development” to Keep the Empire and Substitute for Racism

During the early years of World War II, Japan won major victories (such as the capture of Singapore) against the British and threatened India. Japanese propaganda pointed to British racism and offered themselves as the defenders of non-white peoples. The British feared that non-white people in the colonies might side with the Japanese rather than their colonial masters. The British had to come up with a new justification for colonial rule to replace the unpopular…

Posted in History | 21 Comments

Won’t shut up about Afghanistan

Transitionland had a thoughtful response to my cri de coeur on Afghanistan yesterday. Among her recommendations for improving things:

(1) Stop the air strikes that are killing civilians,

(2) Crack down on corrupt contractors to USAID,

(3) Stop supporting Afghan warlords who are homicidal and/or corrupt.

So, after years of experimentation, we can now start applying these subtle, complex lessons:

(1) Don’t kill,

(2) Don’t steal,

(3) Don’t give aid to those who…

Posted in In the news | 17 Comments