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Matthew Sgro
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The report "Turn Down the Heat" provided by the World Bank Group illustrates the terrifying effects our world is going to face as temperatures continue to rise. I found this article interesting because I am an Environmental Studies minor and have learned about much of what was discussed in this paper. As we have learned in this class the effects of development build upon each other, this is similar for the effects of climate change. For example as carbon emissions increase, temperatures follow the same trend and cause many negative consequences (such as coral bleaching->then leading to less biodiversity). I found what Jillian said above to be very true - that many of the less developed countries live in tropic zones and will be the most affected by these changes, but they are probably the ones least contributing to these problems. As the MIT study from the reading reported," Higher temperatures substantially reduce economic growth in poor countries and have wide-ranging effects, reducing agricultural output, industrial output, and political stability" (pg. 4). These problems such as increased storm intensity and increased aridity among the developing countries would be catastrophic. As we've seen in our class these developing nations cannot afford droughts and poor crop years, it disrupts their entire livelihood. Therefore, the responsibility falls upon the more developed/industrialized nations. Certainly there has been progress throughout the world- many businesses have 'green initiatives', the influx of hybrid and electric cars, and greater use of alternative energy sources have all been on the rise in the last two decades. (From my own experience "Lincoln Financial Field" home of the Philadelphia Eagles is considered the most sustainable sports arena currently with very obvious exterior solar panels and wind turbines on the stadium itself). However, more must be done if we truly want to have an impact, and I believe this change must come in the form of policy; especially in an effort to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, the United States (a country whose decisions could potentially have substantial impacts on this issue) just elected a President who recently called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese. Uh oh.
In Le Goff and Singh's paper "Does Trade Reduce Poverty: A view from Africa? " we are once again given the ever illuminating answer (or lack thereof) of 'it depends'. As we've seen over and over again this semester a one track solution to the problem of poverty and underdevelopment in countries is not simple. In this case the degree to which trade actually helps countries DEPENDS on issues such as their financial sector development, education levels, and strength of institutions. Therefore, factors of development within countries build on each-other and have somewhat of a compounding effect. While reading this paper it brought me back to other questions we've tried to answer this semester - "Does empowering women help development". Well only if other factors are in place so that these women can take full advantage of the greater freedoms, otherwise it may not produce many benefits. I also think back to the MicroFinance readings in which there was no clearcut answer for underdeveloped countries- and countries actually applied drastically different strategies. The ability to reap the rewards depended on many factors that differed depending on the country. Consequently, it seems as if we are giving underdeveloped countries mixed signals "Well this might work if this happens". The ambiguity is seemingly endless leaving developing countries essentially unassisted in figuring out what works for them. Excerpt from the concluding remarks- "While trade liberalization is considered as an efficient tool to enhance development, both theoretically and empirically, its impact on poverty is ambiguous." As illustrated above this paper only continues this trend of ambiguity by saying trade is good sometimes but it also has the ability to actually worsen the situation, "suggest that greater trade openness increases headcount poverty, widens the poverty gap, and reduces the income of the poorest quintile". So what are the developing countries to do ? How do they build a solid base so that they get the full benefits from factors such as opening trading and empowering women? I can only imagine how frustrating it is for these countries to hear the answer 'it depends'.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Bauchet's "Latest Findings from Randomized Evaluations of Microfinance" is certainly an interesting digression into the benefits of financial services for the poor. It was also interesting to learn more about how the poor choose to use their savings to impact investment and overall welfare. However, I found myself questioning the paper after reading ,"While microcredit in the India study showed no discernible impact on measures of health, education, and female empowerment, it led to more businesses being created and enabled poor households with businesses to change their spending patterns" (pg. 2). From a "Sen-perspective" it seems there should be a focus on improving health, education, and female empowerment before focusing on improving the microfinance services. In my mind I believe Sen would argue that improving those factors first is a more efficient way to go about development in poor countries. When those freedoms are increased the people (total population including women) can then more truly take advantage of the new microfinancial services; therefore leading to a larger GDP and greater economic prosperity. The fact that the services such as microcredit have benefited poor households in several ways (i.e.-> re-prioritizing their spending habits) should not be overlooked. Going from spending their already limited money on durable goods rather than tobacco and alcohol is a win for the poor in and of itself. BUT again, the author acknowledges, "The results of these randomized evaluations find little, if any, evidence of impact on use of healthcare, education, or female empowerment . . . The groups that benefited most from increased access to credit tended to be men with relatively high incomes." In essence I do not believe the ideas brought forth by this paper in regards to better credit and saving opportunities for the poor are useless. However, I believe Sen would argue that we must improve the poor's ability to have basic freedoms (health, education) before we can think about these 'second-tier' items. Ultimately, if there is not a strong base in place for the development of poor nations then trying to build on the second level of the 'pyramid' (when it is of no benefit to elements such as women's freedom/empowerment) is a waste of time.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2016 on Readings for this week at Jolly Green General
A commonly held belief by people stating the world population is outgrowing our ability to feed it is that land is a finite resource. In "The Economics of Being Poor" by Theodore Schultz this notion is basically denounced as false, " Mankind's future is not foreordained by space, energy and cropland. It will be determined by the intelligent evolution of humanity". Instead he says our future is limited by the ability of our minds to continue to come up with solutions- essentially arguing for his point that human capital is the most important resource. So why not give these people the resources to succeed? i.e. -> insurance to be able to take risks on crops with higher yields, subsidized land-grant schools/universities. I took an Ecology of Place course last spring term where we learned a lot about the new technologies and evolutions in the agricultural world contributing to our abilities to feed the growing populations. For example I gained further insights into GMO's and their ability to provide sufficient amount of crops/food for the foreseeable future. This then leads me to believe governments in poor countries should not discount the importance of farmland/agriculture- because many of the poverty stricken are still in this sector and as a society we still depend on them. Therefore, it is imperative to empower these citizens to learn more about their craft and increase their knowledge/skillset so as to encourage that entrepreneurial attitude. This also ties into the malaria article in the sense that higher income countries must aid in this fight for the good of everyone. Poverty and malaria are strongly correlated. While other factors are certainly involved, the fact that poor people in tropic zones have to deal with this disease on a daily basis severely inhibits their ability to development. As we have learned- once sustenance needs are met only then can people focus on "being agents of their own change" and improving their quality of life.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2016 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" Esther Duflo argues that the fight for women's equality should be looked at as more of a means to end poverty stricken countries. She argues that there should be policy in place to help women break free from this inequality. Therefore, the "empowerment of women further stimulates economic development" as Duflo succinctly puts it. Empowering women has a trickle down effect in the sense that it gives them more power in society which improves their household role - this than can have further benefits such as having less children (which as we have learned has far reaching society and economic benefits as Sheryl Wudunn described). This idea also rings true to me because I attended an all boys school in high school, which I loved, but when I got to W&L and started working in groups with women I realized they oftentimes thought about things differently than men truly adding value to discussions and adding a different scope of understanding. BUT some countries are still completely ignoring this great resource they already have in front of them. I also believe this is a phenomenon Americans think is only going on in other countries and we somewhat turn a 'blind-eye' to it. However, this problem is closer to home than we realize and it is imperative that we look at ways to improve the inequalities within our own countries. -Professor Casey, I'm sorry I know we are supposed to have these written by 8ish but I had a couple interviews today, my two classes, and football and I literally had no other time to write it.
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In a way Rodrik almost makes the picture of economic development more murky by denouncing some of the common universal solutions - and in essence telling us the phrase we've become accustomed to so far in this class....... "It depends".
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Rodrik's article is long and somewhat dense, but gives insight into the different ways countries can (and have) gone about economic development. I find the martian example very compelling especially relating policy growth strategies of different countries to that of some of the items in the "Washington Consensus". As stated in the article some of the countries who followed this list most closely (Latin America) have not experienced the same growth as other countries who would have had low Table 2 scores (Southeast Asia). I know this is not a great example, but hearing this I immediately related it to my experience coaching basketball to kids in Rockbridge county. It was impossible to make everyone of these 10 year olds understand the game (some would understand one drill and others would look lost) but as you come to know each player you can somewhat tailor drills/practices to get across your point in a way that puts them in a position to be successful come gametime. This is something I believe Rodrik would also agree with - not every policy will work for every country, it is important to understand the intricacies of the area so as to instill the policies that would provide the greatest benefits. Rodrik goes so far to say that some countries were even worse off even though they seemed to improve policies, "Africa, where economic decline persists despite an overall (if less marked) “improvement” in the policy environment. (pg.7)" How could this be? Rodrik then goes on to admit that while these anomalies worked in certain instances, there are many situations in which they did not. His main point seems to be that countries must focus on the end goal of growth rather than the means of getting there. Even withing the southeast Asian countries their innovation strategies were significantly different from each other. Each country will have many different variables that will effect their institutions/policies, such as pre-existing institutional factors and therefore, "the 'art' of reform consists of selecting appropriately from a potentially infinite menu of institutional designs. (pg.12)"
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The main theme I drew out from Krugman's "The Fall and Rise of Development Economics" was the idea of simplicity. His belief is that Development Economics did not make significant strides between 1940 and 1970 because they were not able to break down their ideas into more straightforward easily understood models. They could not "dumb down" their knowledge, and became too lost in the details inhibiting them from seeing the bigger picture. Economists such as Albert Hirschman were not wrong, however they didn't portray their knowledge in an efficient manner, "We can now see that high development theory made perfectly good sense after all. But in order to see that, we need to adopt exactly the intellectual attitude Hirschman rejected: a willingness to do violence to the richness and complexity of the real world in order to produce controlled, silly models that illustrate key concepts." Krugman seems to be saying to these economists - We know you're incredibly intelligent , but swallow your pride and produce a more simplistic model without getting lost in the complexities of the problem. Breaking concepts down into their more elementary elements (such as outlining textbook chapters) is something we do as humans everyday - it is how we learn. Reading Kinsey's comment above rang true to me. It is quite common to feel your brain spinning when first reading dense material on a new subject, but when a simplistic model is drawn on the board - such as a supply and demand curve - it gives a base in understanding the material then allowing for pursuance of more complicated knowledge on the subject. It also makes that once dense reading more likely to make sense. Much like Krugman it is hard for me to understand why these economists could not simplify their models. If they did maybe we would be further along in Development Economics than we currently are today.
In the Introduction and first two chapters of "Development as Freedom" Amarta Sen portrays the idea that development is the process of allowing people to have more freedom. Whether that be greater political freedoms, economic freedoms, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, or protective securities. (pg. 10). One of the main points Sen illustrates which I find interesting is the idea that wealth in itself is not necessarily attractive to people, it is the opportunities (freedom) that the wealth gives them which they yearn for. As we spoke about in class this lack of freedom for the deeply impoverished comes from their inability to do much other than surviving day to day. When you are worried about what you are going to eat tomorrow do you think participating in the political environment of your country is on your mind ? Certainly not. It's not that these people do not want to more fully participate in opther opportunities that life has to offer. However, the position they are in simply doesn't allow them to as a Ugandian woman points out, "When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior" (Economic Development pg. 6). I also believe the idea Sen brings up about Economic Development leading to loss of traditions/culture is an extremely thought-provoking question. My own personal belief is that as development and socioeconomic status increase it is inevitable certain traditions would change, because many of these traditions come about from the circumstances humans are in. As is the basis of the entire book so far - development means more freedom - so I question, could the same traditions someone had in a state of poverty withstand the lifestyle changes as wealth levels increase. However, I do believe most impoverished people would choose a "better life" over their traditions if faced with that dilemma.
"The Economic Lives of the Poor" gave me further insight into the poverty stricken lives of many humans around the world - a topic I know very little about and can hardly begin to relate to coming from a middle class family in the U.S. Therefore, the fact that these people are still spending some of their limited income in items such as alcohol, tobacco, and large social gatherings (such as festivals and weddings) was astonishing to me. For example "The typical poor household in Udaipur could spend up to 30 percent more on food than it actually does, just based on what it spends on alcohol, tobacco, and festivals." At first this simply doesn't make sense, these poor and extremely poor people are starving, yet they are not using more of their money to help solve this problem. The article then goes on to further illustrate their dire situations highlighting low BMI's and that only fractions of the poor in many countries own assets such as a chair or table. However, after relating it to other courses I have taken at W&L in Sociology and Psychology I realized these are still human beings; creatures who for the most part strive for social connections. The alchohol, tobacco, and festivals provide this social construct - maybe allowing them to distance themselves from their impoverished lifestyles even for just a short time. As Matthew Leibermann, a professor of psychology in the UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior states, "Being socially connected is our brain's lifelong passion". Therefore, like any being these poverty stricken people experience a fundamental human need to be social and connect with others - however their opportunity cost of buying alcohol, cigarettes, etc. is much much greater than ours.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2016 on ECON 280 Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 14, 2016