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Ella Rose
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I found this article very compelling, and directed a a person just like myself. I feel like I have heard this story 1,000 times, yet don't know what to do about it. I remember learning about all the trash in the ocean that makes up an island the size of Texas in the pacific ocean. I remember being stunned and shocked that no one was talking about this regularly. But, in the end, I became just as guilty as the people I was condemning for not taking action. Years later, I haven't thought about that island more than five times... This article, i fear, will be similar. While reading it, I was shocked. There are real consequences that will have mortal impacts on people, some impacts that we can't even predict. We are talking about a world that our children will live in, and yet no one seems to be listening. Why is that? Why don't I listen? I think a lot of it has to do with distraction and free-riding. These problems occur slowly over time. They do not happen over night, and therefore its easy to push their solutions back to be tomorrow's problem. For people living in North America, these problems are also not right in our face. We do a pretty good job escaping from any sort of climate, sitting in air conditioned buildings and swimming in man-made chlorinated pools. So for us, it does not seem like a pressing issue. In addition, free-riding is a huge problem with climate change. One person will not make a huge impact, and since everyone knows that, every person gets away with doing nothing. I feel that the combination of these two things pushes climate change into the back of people's minds. Lastly, as I was reading this article, I was reminded of Rawls veil of ignorance. In this exercise people are to imagine that they could wake up one day living in any time period, on any continent, with any sort of genetic make-up. Not knowing where you would end up, what rules would you put in place to govern the society you live in? If you think about this in regard to climate change, it only seems just that we would make an effort to mitigate our impact on the earth's climate. It is likely that you could wake up in 2080, living in Africa. Would you be in favor of the way we are treating the world now? It is pure luck that I am not living in Africa now, or in 2080, so I need to step up and fight for those that aren't as lucky as I am.
I think a lot of what this articles is getting at is something that we discussed earlier in the semester. It is clear that trade leads to economic growth. That has been studied and doesn't seem to depend on much. But whether or not it leads to a reduction in poverty simply has to do with looking at where that wealth is going to be distributed. What increase in GDP leads to what decrease in poverty? This, as we have learned has everything to do with institutions and structures within a society. If it's financial systems, education, and government is set up to increase inequality and not help the poor, then increasing trade will also not help the poor. Having just (fair) institutions is necessary for helping poor people. We know this already from looking at how GDP growth effects inequality, so it seems only natural that this would carry over into. As we continue in this class it seems like this is a common theme. Many many things (probably to many to even name) have to come together in order to have a real effect and increase development as freedom. With anything by itself, you cannot guarantee the outcome. This paper points to one of the keys to economic growth and development. You have to be able to look at the entire picture to understand anything of what's going on. Just about everything is an "O" in the O-ring theory. Any missing piece seems to make the entire economy not develop as much as it could. This is why development is such as complicated issue, as seen by this article.
Toggle Commented Dec 1, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found the reading on micro-credit particularly fascinating. It seemed like the article was written to a person exactly like me. I was one of those people who grew up loving the idea of micro-financing. The headmaster at my high school was on the board of a micro-financing nonprofit. We learned all about its processes and had guest speakers come in to tell us all the merits of this strategy for poverty alleviation and women's empowerment. When I was a senior, my final project for economics class was to start a business (using a small loan) and make a profit over the course of a month. All the proceeds were donated to Hope International, this micro-financing company. No one ever talked about the shortcomings, and I went on assuming that micro-financing was THE solution to kickstarting economies in developing countries. So naturally, I found this article very interesting. I think a part of the reason no one ever talks about the shortcomings or downsides to this kind of finance is because it logically seems like it is going to work. Looking at human nature, it seems to obvious that for a normal economy full of rational people, that there would be no way to have a bad outcome. But herein lies the problem. There are so many more factors and barriers that prevent people from acting in a rational way, or for an economy to behave "normally." Micro-finance has such a strong story behind it, and very convincing anecdotal evidence. I am glad people have pushed beyond that to actually review the outcomes and try to improve this business. I still believe that micro-financing is a valuable asset for a community. It requires careful thought and planning, and creative solution to cultural restraints. And it most certainly requires careful evaluation and the flexibility to change based on findings.
Toggle Commented Nov 16, 2016 on Readings for this week at Jolly Green General
In “The Economics of Being Poor” I was really fascinated by the interplay between well-being and economic incentives. I had never thought that using economic incentives could be a real tool for increasing well-being. For example, the idea that longer life-spans, something that seems intrinsically valuable, could also increase economic incentives is really interesting. No one needs to convince me that longer lives are better. They are better just because they allow people to achieve more and enjoy their friends and family more. But his article added a huge new dimension to that increasing life expectancy just for its intrinsic value. It also creates economic incentives for investing in one's life and other people's lives because there is more room for a return to those investments. Longer lives lead to better lives. This reminded me of what Sen was talking about in Development As Freedom. Long lives are intrinsically valuable, in that they are ends in themselves, but there are also means to other things. In this case, they are means to economic incentives. I think a lot of times people are motivated to help the “less fortunate” simply because what they are doing will cause immediate happiness. Curing cancer or giving out mosquito nets are both good things. But, it is important to remember the economic incentives that follow what you have done. It may even be the most important question you ask because incentives are the only thing you really leave behind. What does giving hand out create an incentive for? What does a micro-financing create an incentive for? Both of those strategies have been employed by various non-profits, and I think they leave very different incentive structures behind in the end. This article really helped me examine the use of economic incentives and their power in developing countries. They are a huge tool that can be used for good or for bad.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2016 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This paper discusses the relationship between economic growth and gender equality. The author argues that having gender equality comes from both specific policies and economic development. One of these alone will not sufficient reduce the inequality for women. I thought the authors point about economic policy empowering women was very enlightening. It is true that increase in income will reduce the prevalence of tragic choices and help increase the lifespan of the women in that community. However, the author never really expanded on way that was not sustainable. Obviously there is still inequality in the US, a very developed country. So why does it work at the beginning and not continue to work as the economy continues to grow? The author should have clarified that there are definitely huge diminishing returns to economic growth in terms of gender equality. In less developed countries, there are huge improvements because of a reduction in tragic choices. There are explicit economical reasons for gender discrimination that are very responsive to economic growth. Therefore at the very bottom incomes there can be huge change. However, this principles don't really for very long. I think the author could have done a better job distinguishing and explaining the diminishing returns as a cause needing both policy and economic growth to help women. Also, in a philosophy class that I took last year, I read an article on the vulnerability of marriage. The section on marriage in this article really reminded me of the one I had read last year. Marriage puts women in a very vulnerable position, not because of marriage in and of itself, but because of the gender roles that are so often associated with it. From an early age girls are conditioned to prepare themselves for marriage. Even with career aspirations, women will just accept the fact that they will probably be mothers, and close themselves off to so many opportunities because of the expectations of marriage.There is so much more to be said on this subject, and that reading would go very nicely with this one.
Toggle Commented Oct 19, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found Rodrik’s argument very persuasive. He carefully laid out the history of economic strategies, noting people’s general thinking about policies and then comparing them to actual finding in the real world. He did a great job laying out different examples and building the case that development is accomplished very differently in different cultures, and within different institutions. The tables at the end of the paper proves to be very helpful. It is not like all different people want radically different things for their lives, or that some policies are universally better than others. Instead, careful attention must be paid to cultural and institutional practices to create the best policies for specific people groups. I found his study of China particularly compelling. He went through what a western economist would have advised China, and then noted how this wasn’t the most effective strategy. Every country, generally, has the same high-economic goals. However, different cultures have very different strategies to make this goals into a reality. I think this is a crucial point in development economics, and one that Americans need to be reminded of often. I read a book this summer called “When Helping Hurts” and it talked about developing countries’ view of Americans coming in and helping “make their country better.” They describe the experience as an elephant stomping around and making a lot noise and then leaving. The country receiving this "aid" is just left confused and not quite sure where to go next. It is clear that this elephant was there, and was very powerful, but it is not so clear what is had to offer to their current experience. Often, there is little consideration for cultural difference, but just the idea that America’s policies and practices should be applied everywhere. This view of American Exceptionalism sees America’s democratic structure as the best way, and one that everyone else should adopt. I am not sure Rodrik would agree with this, and I wouldn’t either. It takes special consideration of cultural constraints and “unconventional” ideas to help bring these high economic ideal into diverse societies.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This paper touches on a lot of the struggles I have wrestled with in Economics. I am an Econ major, but was always bothered by the oversimplification of models. I loved learned about perfect competition and running through the logical steps or price changes and changes in elasticity in my head. It was fun, made sense, and helped to explain a lot of the decisions consumers make in the world. It was all fun until it didn’t actually work in the real world. If you look closer, what the models predict and the actual decisions people make are often not the same. People aren’t rational, trying to maximize totally benefit, and working in a perfectly competitive market. So I wondered, as I walked out of my Econ 101 class, how you actually try to make economic change in the seemingly complicated and irrational world we live in. It seems like development theory went through this same process. They made models and then abandoned them because they didn’t know how to apply them in policy. From there, they turned to metaphors and logic to explain phenomena, only to discover that you really do need models if you want to have a large and lasting impact on development theory. Krugman notes that theories, “do not endure unless codified in a reproducible -- and teachable form,” aka, a model. To me, it is understandable that many thinkers in those “lost years” turned away from models. Sometimes they don’t work, and they wanted to try a different approach. However, as the author points out, there is not other option except for models. It is not a matter of turning to a different medium for explaining the economy, but working on the actual models. You have to be creative and try and make different models to isolate different variables, helping you understand another piece of the puzzle. You also have to understand the limits of models. They are not a panacea, but just a useful way to understand some past experiences and try to predict what might happen in the future, given a set of conditions. Reading this article has really helped me come around to the idea of models again. They really aren’t these hypothetical situations that I can just forget about, but real tools that should be used in the right situations.
Sen discusses heavily the idea that freedom is not only a means for development, but an actual ends for development in itself. This really stuck me because I don’t think the average person would see freedom in that way. Yes, having more opportunities to do certain functioning can further one’s path towards living the life that they choose to live. But at the same time, most people would agree that one characteristic in this hypothetical type of life they would like to lead is one in which they have the freedom to choose this life. Therefore, freedom has an intrinsic value in itself. It does not need to be justified, like it so often is, by the functionings that freedom provides. I think this idea should really help governments and organizations refocus how they approach development. People are obsessed with results and looking for tangible evidence as to how some new freedom has affected their lives. Governments want concrete new functionings to justify their efforts to add freedoms and opportunities to their citizens. However, adding freedoms for the sake of freedoms is never really taken into account. I wonder what the world would look like if institutions valued freedoms for freedom itself and not for the “returns to freedom.” I also loved the way Sen turns something as complicated as development into such a simple idea. He says that development, true development, is just increasing freedoms. He values the intrinsic value of freedom, as I have just discussed, but also notes that increasing freedom will lead to development – the kind of development that leads to a just society. Its not development as economists have thought of previously, but a development that leads to a fairer state for everyone to live the lives they choose to live. I think this is incredibly important because it demands institutions to think of growth/development differently. You cannot simply develop your country by growing GDP. That doesn't cut it anymore. In Sen's world governments are upheld to a higher standard that I believe will lead to a more just state.
I found this articles very interesting. Benerjee and Duflo brought up many relevant topics and supported all of their claims with sufficient data. They covered a wide range of topics that really helped the reader understand the plethora of obstacles facing the extremely poor in today's world. It was tough to read at some points, because just when you thought that could be the last problem, there was another entire section of obstacles to face. After reading this, the situation seems pretty desolate. In every corner that "development" would like to reach, there are ten things that prevent change from occurring. From trying to gain access to loans, to knowing how to budget income, to getting good advice from a doctor, it seems like nothing is going their way. I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating this type of lifestyle would be, and it seems very unjust that it should still exist in today's world. However, the one positive thing I took away from this article was about the food budget. The authors seemed very disturbed by the extremely poor's lack of spending on food. They discussed it at the beginning, and then came up with some relatively unlikely solutions to why this might be happening. I saw this in a different way. I think that is is remarkable that even in such a tough economic situation, the poor are still able to prioritize connection about everything else. They are still able to have a strong hold on what makes us human (that being our desire to connect with people) and they value that equally to nourishing their own bodies. The authors called this "entertainment" but really, I think its mental and spiritual food that is so necessary for people, especially in such a stressful lifestyle. I even think Sen would commend them for choosing to spend this money on things like radios and festivals that connect them to other people.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2016 on ECON 280 Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 14, 2016