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Esther DuFlo’s paper on women’s empowerment and development encapsules many of the thoughts that I had considered during the Sen reading and our class on Wednesday. The concluding remarks that there is no magic bullet for development really resonated with me. I would love to believe that we could simply invest in women (or anything, for that matter) and the global economy would grow exponentially, but that isn’t necessarily how the empirical evidence shapes up. A concern of mine, however, is with the mentality that investment in women must be justifiable and benefit the entire population. An investment in women that has negligible effects on men is still an investment into women. Every investment need not benefit men in order to be justified. I think that when we focus too aggressively on this “magic bullet,” we lose sight of how advantageous an investment could be, even if it doesn’t ignite full scale development in a nation. A series of small investments that improve the quality of people’s lives is still valuable for a developing nation. This is apparent when viewing the compounding effect of improvements to the quality of life in a country that is continually the recipient of investment. Small changes spark more small changes. This ripple effect may not pull a nation out of poverty, but it can make thousands of lives much better— and that is still an overwhelming success.
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
The quote from the reading that resonated most with me is that “...we are all builders and purveyors of unrealistic simplifications. Some of us are self-aware... Others…. are sleepwalkers: they unconsciously use metaphors as models.” This abridged quote resonated with me so well because my greatest frustration in studying economics is the drawing of conclusions (especially policy decisions) using models that hold too many unrealistic assumptions to be true. I believe that we can learn a lot from models and that models are valuable, but not without recognizing the shortcomings of those models. Krugman makes several great comparisons between physical science and social science that really exemplifies the double standard within the sciences. With basic natural science modeling, few would negate that the results are applicable to real life, but there’s always the understanding that laboratory conditions are not the same as actual real life conditions. It seems that in economic modeling, that understanding of the model’s shortcomings are never mentioned. When utilizing a economic modeling, it seems that everyone must following the model perfectly or completely dismiss it for a lack of realism. Few onlookers of economic research seem willing to accept the advantages and shortcomings of economic modeling simultaneously— despite the fact that they have so much to offer if considered in reasonable light. Another idea that Krugman brought up that I hadn’t considered was how improvements in technology or modeling lead to short run deficits in areas that haven’t been reconsidered with the new modeling strategy. Paired with the analogy of the maps of Africa, I think it’s important to remember that economics is still a developing social science. New discoveries and more accurate models are being found and developed. I subconsciously consider the natural sciences to be the only sciences subject to change— perhaps because our modeling seems so concrete and definitive. Alternatively, there is so much that we don’t know about the natural world that it seems intuitive that we discover and develop new things. The Krugman reading has really encouraged me to remember that economic research and economic theory development are not completed processes, but rather, ongoing projects.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
After reading the article, I was immediately caught off guard by the aggressive suggestions for hyper-free markets in developing countries. While we can trace many of the problems with markets in lagging or trapped countries to excessive governmental interference, a major shortcoming of the article is the inadequate representation how free markets may also fail these countries. Upon reading this article, someone could easily be left with the impression that free markets and non-existent government entities are the recipe for economic success. After observing how often free markets fail, we know that this isn't the case. Similarly to the sentiments of confusion after the Sen reading, I think that this article could leave readers wondering what the path forward looks like. Despite this shortcoming, I found it fascinating that developing nations around the world can trace back many of their problems to the same underlying variables. Across different cultures, different regions, and drastically different histories, the fact that the issues surrounding the development of these nations is similar and can be approached systematically gives me a fair amount of optimism for their future development. I would like to hear more about the path forward for these nations. I thought that the concluding remark (“Thus, the establishment of correct institutions and individual incentives for better access to capital markets, international trade, and industrialization can be viewed as crucial for a country to advance with sustained economic growth”) is a bit ambiguous given the comprehensive study of so many different, complex economic systems. I was a bit shocked when I made it to the end of the article— I had a bit higher expectations for the synthesis and application of the data analysis.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
After reading the article and some (not all) of the responses here, the one seemingly recurring notion is that the SDGs are overly-optimistic or unobtainable— specifically SDG3 and SDG4. While I do not feel that I’m in a position to determine the feasibility of these goals within the context of our global economy, I do feel that a bar set just a bit too high enlivens the human spirit to succeed. In the face of impossibility, our creativity thrives. In the face of the easily obtainable, we simply follow the status quo. Certainly, a bar set far too high is discouraging and pushes leaders to give up before they start. However, I think the world is up for a challenge. Additionally, should some nations fall shy of the “overly-optimistic” SDGs, the world is still such a better place. Another concern that I saw (and initially experienced), was with the ability to mobilize developed countries (and their private corporations) to assist developing countries with the SDGs. While my initial thought was how difficult it will be to convince profit-maximizing companies to aid in the expansion of developing economies, I was reminded that Corporate Social Responsibility is a two-fold aspect of the corporate world. It serves the purpose of benevolence, but it also serves as a fantastic marketing strategy. I firmly believe that the companies pushing for the achievement of these SDGs in developing countries will be rewarded exponentially by consumers and their support.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 13, 2018