Sunday, June 21, 2009

Free development book

That's what Charles Kenny is offering, along with the chance to offer some criticisms.

The book asks a larger question than just economic growth. On the "good life", he is very optimistic, especially about aid. "The good that it does appear possible to extend global access to at least some elements of the good life, including health and education." An example is Onchocerciasis, a blindness caused by parasites. The international aid industry seems to have done a good job eradicating the disease.

I liked the books optimism, without being over the top, though he doesn't give much discussion to the problems of geography.

His view on the how Malthus has been proved wrong is also a little too optimistic. I personally think the fertility rate in Africa may make it difficult to develop as resources, including food, must be distributed more widely.

His discussion on the historical trajectory of countries is very interesting. I was not aware of this:
Ranking the 53 countries with 1820 and 2003 data, there is still a clear pattern –the average country has moved only ten places in the rankings over 183 years. Only six countries have managed to move out of the bottom half rankings into the top half during close to two centuries of economic change.
My favorite line is about the lack of optimism in development:
Why the right should have a monopoly on optimism is strange. Life, after all, has been getting better in a lot of countries that are unlikely to be shortlisted for the Ayn Rand Award for Doctrinaire Adherence to Laissez-Faire. Indeed, life has been getting better pretty much everywhere at pretty much the same rate –under (semi) socialist and (comparatively) free market regimes alike.

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