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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Lies My Poets Told Me: The Prehistory of Development Economics

This post is by Adam Martin, a post-doctoral fellow at DRI.

A couple months ago, Bill addressed the imperial origins of state-led development, arguing that economic development was a substitute for racism as a rationalization of empire. I think it’s worthwhile to delve a bit further into the intellectual and social context in which these ideas were put forward.

Why bother? Because ideas matter for policy. There are good, hard-nosed reasons for…

Posted in Academic research, History | Tagged , | 7 Comments

We Were Starting to Think It Might Never Happen…

…but after months of delay, the Obama administration has finally named a nominee for the position of USAID administrator.

The Center for Global Development’s Sheila Herrling was among the first to mention Shah as a last minute candidate:

[R]ecent activity on our poll shows an unusual flurry of write-ins for Raj Shah, currently serving as Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics at USDA.   Could this be the final twist of fate?


Posted in In the news | 3 Comments

History Matters: If you paid a $4 poll tax in 1910, your great-grandchild gets a polio vaccine today

In colonial Nigeria in the last years of the 19th century, a strange quirk of history led the British rulers to draw an arbitrary boundary line along the 7˚10′ N line of latitude, separating the population into two separate administrative districts.

Below the line, the colonial government raised money by levying taxes on imported alcohol and other goods that came through Southern Protectorate’s sea ports. Above the line, the administrators of the landlocked Northern Protectorate…

Posted in Academic research, History | 17 Comments

Friday Round Up

Monkeys Do Markets

Vervet_Monkey_2 In a recent experiment, a team of scientists trained a vervet monkey to open a container of apples, a task no other monkey in her group could do. She was well-compensated for this service by the other monkeys, who began to spend a lot of time grooming her (apparently, grooming is the monkey unit of exchange). Then, the scientists trained another monkey in the group to get the apples, and the…

Posted in Academic research, Books and book reviews, In the news | 5 Comments

Seeing the Light on a Rights-Based Approach to Development

Today’s guest blogger, Tim Ogden, is the editor-in-chief of Philanthropy Action.

Bill Easterly has been a frequent critic of the rights-based approach to development, most recently in his article in the FT focusing on the “right to health.” For as long as I’ve known about the rights-based approach I’ve agreed with him. Recently, though, I’ve seen the light.

For those unfamiliar with the rights-based approach to development, it starts with defining inalienable human rights—and…

Posted in Human rights | Tagged , | 33 Comments

P.T. Bauer, Development Prophet

This post is by Claudia Williamson, a post-doctoral fellow at DRI.

P.T. Bauer was a brilliant development economist who began writing in the 1940s, and published many influential works throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, when most of his profession favored central planning and government solutions.*  Bauer preferred bottom-up solutions and focused on the importance of institutions to align incentives and provide information to promote social cooperation and economic growth.

Relying on basic economic principles…

Posted in Economics principles | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Misunderstanding Randomness

In next week’s New York Review of Books, Korean development economist Ha-Joon Chang responds to a review of his new book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. Chang defends his argument that the majority of rich nations today benefited from infant industry protection, and stands by his analysis that developing countries under an interventionist regime grew faster than those with neoliberal policies, looking at the period from 1980 to 2000.…

Posted in Democracy and freedom, Economics principles | 3 Comments

Bill Goes to Africa

Hello, aid watchers.

I am Africa-bound and will go off the Internet for the next 2 weeks (out of choice, not technological constraints). Laura will be running the blog in my absence. When I come back I will tell you about any experiences of interest.

Maybe when I come back I will also wearily comment on the latest aid-and-growth regression paper, the 1 millionth attempt to resolve the relationship in a cross-country growth regression…

Posted in Meta | 8 Comments