Invitation | The Tyranny of Experts Lecture and Book Launch

14 Feb


TOEYou are seeing this message because you were subscribed to the NYU Development Research Institute blog (formerly the Aid Watch blog). We are no longer publishing posts at this site, but wanted to invite you to the launch of Professor Easterly’s new book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. The event will take place at 6pm on Monday March 3, 2014 at the Great Hall at Cooper Union, New York City. Find more details and register here.

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Favorite book of a lifetime

15 May

(in the category: nonfiction but not in my own field)

I recently re-read a book that I first read almost 30 years ago, which I have remembered ever since as perhaps the best book I ever read.

Re-reading after 30 years is a severe test. Many other books that the younger me liked have failed this test — either because they are dated or because I’ve changed.

This book passed the test. The only blemish was a bad but short section on economics in the 20th century.

The book is a marvelously readable account of the history of discovery, both geographic and scientific.

The book is The Discoverers, by Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987, first published in 1983.

“This story is also about you”: Letter from an aid-financed jail

7 May

UPDATE 12:10pm 5/7/2013: The reference on Twitter to “Hollywood celebrity…” is an experiment in fake link bait described at the end of this post.

This is a letter just released from Eskinder Nega, a peaceful blogger and democracy activist serving an 18-year sentence in Kaliti jail in Addis Ababa, courtesy of the Ethiopian government supported by World Bank, US, and UK aid:

Individuals can be penalised, made to suffer (oh, how I miss my child) and even killed. But democracy is a destiny of humanity which can not be averted. It can be delayed but not defeated.

…I accept my fate, even embrace it as serendipitous. I sleep in peace, even if only in the company of lice, behind bars. The same could not be said of my incarcerator though they sleep in warm beds, next to their wives, in their home.

Why should the rest of the world care? Horace said it best: mutate nomine de te tabula narratur. “Change only the name and this story is also about you.” Where ever justice suffers our common humanity suffers, too.

I will live to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may or may not be a long wait. Whichever way events may go, I shall persevere.

eskinder nega

UPDATE 12:10 pm 5/7/2013 “BREAKING: Hollywood celebrity charged with embezzling funds from global poverty NGO” This is a fake story that links you to this true story on Eskinder Nega.

The experiment is about why do we care about some misuses of aid an awful lot, but aid misused to finance violations of rights of brave individuals in poor countries is not amongst them?

The political economy of why your flight is two hours late today

23 Apr

Flights were delayed by up to two hours across the country on Monday…Airline executives were furious over how the {Federal} aviation agency handled the government-inflicted chaos, and privately said the agency was seeking to impose the maximum possible pain for passengers to make a political point.

The airline executives in this NYT story are using a venerable and plausible theory of how government agencies behave in response to budget cuts. An agency would strategically cut areas that make the public howl in pain so as to increase the probability that the cuts will be reversed. If the agency cut areas that did not directly affect the public, it risks the public and politicians saying “good riddance” and making the cuts permanent.

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For the first time in history we’ve got a perfect advocacy message, but challenges remain

19 Apr

Owen Barder adds an April 17 statement by World Bank President Jim Kim to his century-long list of leaders who have declared about once a decade: “for the first time in history, we can end poverty”. Owen had already published this list 3 months ago.

Why does this phrase keep recurring? One thought (not original to me) is that advocacy messages are driven by what works best for advocacy, and not by any necessary relation to reality.

“We can end poverty” — the task is doable, the cost is manageable, it’s almost easy.

“For the first time in history” — this answers a question implied by “we can end poverty”: if it’s so easy, why didn’t it already happen?

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