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Tanner Smith
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This article seems to confirm that as a country's wealth increases, so does the well-being of both men and women. As we talked about in class, however, well-being and agency are two very different things, even though they are somewhat interrelated. A huge part of agency, as this paper explores, is expectations. In many countries, parents have lower expectations for their daughters than for their sons, and transfer these lower expectations onto their daughters so that they expect less out of themselves. In countries where women are expected to be housewives, they are educated accordingly and have less resources invested in them. From a purely economic standpoint it seems like a very poor idea to preclude half of your population from making significant economic contributions, but the humanistic perspective we talked about in class is much more compelling to me. Women should not be given opportunities because it will better our economy; they should be given opportunities and treated equally because they are equally as human as men, and deserve the same rights and opportunities. Humans have spent thousands of years building societal structures that privilege some people over others, but at it's base, this makes little sense, other than for the people who are positions of privilege maintaining their positions of privilege. I think often about the John Rawls veil of ignorance, and how in that scenario, no one would design a societal structure where one group is privileged over the other, in the fear that they themselves would be placed into a less privileged group. I know that as a white male it is very easy for me to talk about these societal structures in a theoretical sense, while in practice benefiting from them. I struggle with what to do with this awareness, other than strive to treat people equally in my day-to-day life and play a small role in promoting equality. I saw a video recently titled "A Scary Time for Men," a parody on Donald Trump's recent comments about how it is tougher than ever to be a guy, where a young women wrote a song about all of the day-to-day struggles she has a women that men do not even think about. These included things such as not feeling safe jogging with headphones on, not being able to open her windows late at night when she is alone, not being able to go to a bar alone, and not being taken seriously if she shows any emotion. This video struck me as a lack of the type of positive freedoms that Sen talks about, and reaffirmed to me that we have a long way to go even in the U.S. in terms of gender equality. One of the traps that is easy to fall into is to think of women's rights as a developing country problem that the U.S. has overcome, but this is far from true in terms of women's actualized freedoms and agency in our society. It frustrates me not to have solutions to these deep societal problems, but the current landscape where at least these problems are now being recognized and discussed seems like a positive, albeit small, first step in the right direction.
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
This paper expands well on the Krugman paper we read earlier. While the Krugman paper focused on modeling and how policy makers often take the results of models and implement policies based on them without holding the assumption, this paper focuses on specific policy implementations and how copycat strategies usually fail. It is very natural for people to want to copy success; this happens across every industry and one success often is followed with a wave of copycats who are not quite as good. The key point within economic development is that most countries do not operate within the same paradigms; just because a policy worked in one country with one set of conditions does not mean it will work in another. That takes us to questioning how we learn from the past. If copying past success does not work, as this paper shows, then it will take much more rigerous economic research to figure out what will work in each country. The part about Western economists assuming they have all of the answers struck me, as we in the U.S. talk about the U.S. as the ultimate success story and assume that our principals should be adapted across the world. When Latin American countries did this, however,it did not lead to sustainable growth in many cases, as simply opening markets to trade does not work if other institutions are not in place. Within the context of this class this paper and the Krugman paper are reminders not to make broad generalizations about the best methods of promoting economic growth, as we really need to consider each country's unique situation before developing a plan to promote economic growth.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2018 on ECON 280: Rodrik Paper at Jolly Green General
The most interesting paragraph of this article to me came under the section of "The Evolution of Ignorance," where it states that A rise in the standards of rigor and logic led to a much improved level of understanding of some things, but also led for a time to an unwillingness to confront those areas the new technical rigor could not yet reach. Areas of inquiry that had been filled in, however imperfectly, became blanks." This part struck me because of my studies into the baseball analytics revolution, and the similarities that I saw. In many of the initial baseball analytics studies things that could be immediately quantified, such as a skill for getting on-base or slugging, were highly valued, while other things that could not as easily be quantified, such as defense, batted ball quality, and baserunning, were dismissed. It was clear then, as it is today, that defensive ability is valuable, but back then we did not have the ability to quantify it, so they allowed it, as Krugman calls it, become a "blank," or "a dark area." This shows me that in cases where we have a clearly relevant variable, but do not know how to quantify it, we should not dismiss it out of hand; instead we should try to develop new methods to do our best to quantify our blanks. When the methodology to quantify defense was developed in baseball analytics, even though it is still far from perfect, it was acknowledged in those circles once again that defense was and still is valuable. The value of models and analytics cannot be disputed, but the hubris that occasionally comes with it can misdirect well-intentioned analysis. Within economic modeling there needs to be an acknowledgment of the limitations of models, but that does not mean that the models need to be thrown out or completely dismissed. Gathering information or doing the math is the easy part; the hard part is using and interpreting that data in responsible ways and discovering the capabilities/limitations of that type of analysis. Within that hard part comes in asking the right questions: why do we weigh things the way that we do, and is there a better way to do it? What are we potentially missing? These type of questions lead to good analysis. The math is not the problem here; human limitations and biases that come in interpreting and using data are.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Section 4 of this paper, the Country Studies, was fascinating, as examining these case studies allows us to dive into the factors that may cause some countries to stagnate developmentally while others flourish. The list of development drivers at the end seemed like a very good list of base factors that determine why countries develop in the way that they do, but while reading the development laggards list I could not help but think of another factor that causes some countries' development to stagnate: a reliance on cash crops. In many of the countries that have historically struggled to develop, such as Cuba, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya and Uganda, there was a heavy reliance on cash crops that pinned an entire economy's fate on the production of a few products. This is an unfortunate consequence of post-colonialism, as these countries have a history of colonial economies in which it would be most profitable to the colonizers to have their colonies mass produce valuable cash crops such as sugar and tobacco. After independence, in many cases, it has proven to be difficult to transition from a cash crop dominated economy. One reason for this is that it has proven to be a great challenge to transition while keeping the economy afloat, as in order to invest in other sectors, governments need money, which they need to generate through their cash crops.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
While all of the SDGs are interesting, the one that stood out the most to me was No. 3, which states that all countries should promote the wellbeing and capabilities of all of their citizens. It is pretty clear that all of the SDGs will be tough to achieve in the near future, especially within the timeline of 12 years laid out in the paper, but No. 3 seems especially tough without significant international interventions. In order to achieve this goal, the U.S. or other powerful nations would need to intervene in countries such as North Korea, China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and many more. Under the current regimes that control these countries, governments prioritize maintaining their own power over the rights of their people, and in many cases, actively suppress the rights of people to their own benefit. The solution in many of these cases would intuitively be to overthrow leaders who do not follow human rights standards. However, as we have seen in many countries in Latin America, such as Argentina and Guatemala, along with other countries around the world, when a leader is overthrown, someone better does not always replace him or her. Simply overthrowing a leader who has the approval of the people can create disorder and instability in a country in the aftermath, both in the short and long term. It will be a great challenge for the future to try to figure out how to promote human rights from abroad in countries with leaders who actively are seeking to suppress such actions. This will mean that SDG No. 3 is, in all likelihood, a goal that will not be fully met for a long-term, as the geopolitical processes involved are costly in both time and sensitivity.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 13, 2018