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Andrew Zandomenego
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It simply does not make sense for anyone to think that an economy can fully develop if half of its potential is not fully utilized. Esther Duflo begins with two broad assumptions in her argument for the role of women in development. First, economic development leads to the empowerment of women. Second, policies aimed at progressing women’s rights help catalyze development. Duflo evaluates the validity of these two beliefs by analyzing arguments for and against them. She ultimately lands at the conclusion that neither approach will successfully reach both goals of development and women’s equality. Therefore, an approach incorporating the two is essential. Duflo provides evidence expressing the effects of development on women’s rights and the effects of women’s rights on development. Duflo finds that when a family’s economic condition is improved from the bare minimum, women are provided with more opportunity and choice. In the case of the U.S., although conditions were not raised from the bare minimum, an economic expansion sparked a demand for clerical workers, opening opportunities for women to enter the labor market. Another important note on the effects of economic development that Duflo mentions is that when conditions are improved, women have more time for themselves. This occurs because economic growth is associated with lower fertility rates, higher access to goods that reduce household work, and so on. However, economic development does not equate to economic empowerment, particularly due to an implicit bias many societies have that women are limited to certain functions in the household. This implicit bias creates a thick glass ceiling. When the focus is on female empowerment, there are many positive externalities exhibited. When female decision making in three realms (the household, the farm, and the community) are improved through policies, overall improvements to health, education, and environmental conditions are visible. These improvements catalyze economic development. For instance, Duflo points out the UN goal that aims to fill 30% of a given country’s elected positions with women. In cases where more women are elected into office, communities experience improvements in health, education, and gender equality. This last point is similar to Sen’s freedom-freedom idea where empowering women allows them to further empower other women in hopes to reach an equal state. The point which stuck out to me the most was made in Duflo’s concluding remarks. She believes that an emphasis on empowering women at the cost of men is necessary to progress from society’s current state. That means more policies centered around empowering women, such as a central focus on the education and health of young girls.
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Rodrick’s “Growth Strategies” does an excellent job of putting everything we have discussed and read in class into context. Beginning the semester, I believed I would be learning the all-being, universal growth strategy to help any under-developed nation rise and prosper. But as Rodrick’s best point indicates, growth strategies are not universal and must be taken in the context of the particular nation and time. In other words, there is no correct combination of economics’ outlined principles—incentives, markets, budget constraints, and property rights—that applies to all nations. Rodrick argues this point through several powerful methods. First, he uses the viewpoint of a Martian—someone who knows nothing about our world—to depict how growth strategy approaches and their effects on different nations appear in their simplest forms. Rodrick also uses China as his most effective tool to prove that development can occur through unconventional institutional strategies, such as the House Responsibility System and Special Economic Zones. Contrasting this to the regressed Latin American nations that followed more traditionally accepted methods exemplifies the point that growth strategies must be implemented in the context of the nation. Rodrick uses his main point to support his two-pronged growth strategy, which calls for investments to kick-start growth (which can be triggered by market or government failures) and institution building strategies to sustain growth. Rodrick highlights the importance of the second principle by discussing the difficulty nations face with sustaining growth, since igniting growth is relatively easier to accomplish. Therefore, a focus on the mid- to long-run is crucial. Rodrick ends his discussion by noting that economists are so focused in development and growth strategies because “it’s the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about,” as mentioned by Richard Feynman. There is no correct formula for a proper growth strategy and this must be the first assumption made before tackling growth in any under-developed nation.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2018 on ECON 280: Rodrik Paper at Jolly Green General
In a study that relies so heavily on modeling, it’s surprising to learn about the history of development economics and its struggles in finding a solid model to outline the discipline’s economic theories. Yet, development economics seems unique in the sense that, as Professor Casey mentioned on Wednesday, there is way more that needs to be understood about an underdeveloped nation than its general economic values (e.g. GDP, unemployment). This is not to say that models are not important in the study, because they certainly are in demonstrating how different approaches towards resolving underdeveloped situations work in a simple economy. But, more important is the holistic approach of evaluating all pieces of the underdeveloped nation, since they are all unique in different ways, in an effort to produce a course of action. What I mean to say is that I understand why the production of a useful model was difficult in development economics. It is simply an area of the whole economy where assumptions can be all over the place. For instance, I noticed this when we talked about modern-sector enrichment (even though I wouldn’t call it a strict model). This is a case where outcomes on income are unclear because we just aren’t exactly sure how different nations (and cultures) will respond to different policies or investment alterations. Nevertheless, The Big Push takes an interesting approach, and I particularly like the distinction between modern and traditional sectors as we have discussed extensively in class. I wonder if the lag in model development could have been due to the slow adoption of “technology” up until the 1970’s. Maybe when computers and intelligence came into play, the modern sector really became the modern sector and technology finally came into serious consideration as a large economic factor in development.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Wang, Wong, and Yip seem to arrive at many of the same conclusions outlined in Sachs’ work. Particularly, as I touched on in my previous response, the role of technology proves to serve an instrumental role in development. As seen in the data, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan all benefitted from the adoption of a tech-focused economy. While comparative advantage makes it clear that every nation cannot prioritize technology while sustaining a productive global economy, the benefits of technology at different scales depending on a country’s situation remain crucial. For instance, it would not make sense for the laggard countries to place high-tech industries on the forefront of their economies due to the previously established, and dominant, markets seen in prosperous Asian countries, as I listed earlier. However, technological advancements made through the global sharing of ideas can help boost the markets that they rely on, such as agriculture in Comoros. Another point that relates to the course deals with the topic of freedom, as we learned from Sen. Wang et. al.’s piece mentions Argentina and its struggle with soaring inflation rates. However, there is a story that is not told in the article which deals with political and social freedoms. During the late 70’s and early 80’s, Argentina’s government regime tortured and killed citizens for the expression of conflicting ideas. I believe that this plays a serious role in the nation’s economic development. During the era following WWII, Argentina saw an influx of immigrants from Europe, many of which were well-educated and trained to be productive labor force participants. This certainly boosted the capacity of Argentina’s labor supply, which in turn was met with more jobs and serious expansion. However, a corruptive system, which Wang et. al. also mentions as a downfall in economic development, clearly crushed confidence in the economy by restricting the free market to benefit a small portion of the population, i.e. those aligned with the government. This turn of events fits in well with our discussion of the “proper” role of government in a free market, which is to encourage the population to participate in the market.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
“To secure the basic material needs—and human rights—of everybody on the planet,” is no easy task. As Jeffrey Sachs points out, with all players onboard, the likeliness of our world migrating towards that goal is not unlikely. Although the Millennium Development Goals have played a significant role in combatting poverty for the past decade and a half, it is refreshing for me to discover that there are people critically analyzing the current system in a pursuit to advance it further. Sachs introduces several intriguing suggestions, SDG’s, on how to better serve the mission outlined by the UN. Sachs’ emphasis on the interaction between technology and humans is a big takeaway from this piece. As he mentions, “Technological advance is threatening the access of many people to good jobs rather than enhancing it.” I believe there are more pros than cons attached to the growing role of technology in society. As it pertains to poverty-stricken communities, improved technological advancements will contribute towards easier access to healthcare, heightened access to food and water, and educational opportunities. However, it is crucial to note that one steep downside of society’s growing dependence on technology is the fate of the population occupying lower-skill positions that could easily be replaced in the future. While Sachs does not rest on the topic for long, I would be curious to hear his thoughts on how that role can be redefined. Sachs also delves into the environmental crossroads the world is facing. With projections of the population growing by another 1 billion by 2024, society has reached a point in which it needs to successfully preserve its natural resources to sustain life. Sachs touches on fertility, mentioning that “Households in high-fertility settings should be empowered to adopt rapid and voluntary reductions of fertility to benefit themselves, their children, and the local and global economy and environment.” This is an interesting point, but one that I feel would be too difficult to communicate to poverty-stricken populations. Keeping a close eye on the race between the rising population and depleting base of natural resources is not enough. As Sachs mentions, it is up to all players, big and small, public and private, to make the difference.
Toggle Commented Sep 13, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 13, 2018