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Ian Kinney
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This paper struck me as very creative in terms of its experimental design and the use of UNSC membership as a proxy for aid. The conclusion, that aid seems to improve MPI but not income, is interesting as well - I reckon this can be interpreted as aid helping to improve lives but not being a viable method of spurring self-sustaining economic growth. I wonder how different types of aid affect long-term development. Food, health, and education spending can decrease short-term mortality (this is good) and should lead to long term improvements in human capital. We would imagine these in turn improve incomes and economic conditions, though that was not seen in this paper. Does American aid spur long-term growth and self-sufficiency? How does American aid compare with China’s influence in Africa, for example? China’s habit of funding infrastructure development does not seem as altruistic and has been criticized heavily by Westerners who see it as a scheme to ensnare developing nations in debt traps, but it provides an intriguing model. There is certainly a need for both human and physical capital spending, but perhaps the human-capital income improvements from our aid are not clear on account of the extremely deficient physical capital stock in many of the recipient countries.
Toggle Commented Dec 9, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I thought this article had a lot of interesting information and connected with a lot of what we’ve learned this semester. At first glance, the Progresa program seems well designed, with an emphasis on long-term building of human capital. Throughout the semester, we’ve discussed the importance of investments into health and education, as well as the need to empower women in development initiatives; all these factors are addressed by the program. It was encouraging to see that Progresa succeeded in boosting female educational achievement and labour market outcomes, despite outcomes for men being more ambiguous. This makes me wonder what the program could have done better, how it could have had an even greater effect. It would be interesting to see some comparative research about the efficacy of various CCT programs. Progresa served as inspiration to the designers of Brazil's Bolsa Familia, which reached 15 million families and became the largest CCT program in the world. This demonstrates the importance of studying the outcomes of different programs and encouraging the exchange of ideas - what works in one country may provide valuable inspiration to policymakers in another.
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
To second the point others have already made, I thought this article tied in nicely to some of the other reading we have had this semester. From the high return to education, to the importance of targeting programs to reach women and girls, I felt like this reading really hammered home the importance of the topics we’ve been discussing. What I found most interesting was that returns to education were highest where education is most lacking. Primary education sees a larger return than secondary, girls see a greater return than boys, and countries with low incomes see a greater return than richer countries. This makes sense to me, and I think it also is a cause for optimism: the education of those who are most excluded from educational opportunities, all else equal, has the highest rate of return. This seems to be an example of equity and efficiency objectives aligning.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I thought this reading did a good job of contextualizing climate projections and making it clear what the practical effects of global warming will be, highlighting local as well as global trends that are expected to play out. Particularly concerning are projections that droughts in the Amazon and the thawing of the permafrost may lead to a positive feedback loop in which climate change causes historic carbon sinks to become major sources of Co2/methane emissions. The magnitude of the projected declines in agricultural productivity, hydropower generation, and assorted ecosystem services highlights how the transition to a post-fossil-fuel future will be made more difficult as climate change begins to impact more and more of the global economy. Particularly considering that many of the hardest-hit countries will be relatively poor countries that contributed little to global greenhouse gas emissions, richer countries have a role to play in helping others to undertake needed reforms. One possible model may be the deal between the EU and Eskom, South Africa’s largest public utility, in which the EU promises to provide funding (grants and low-interest loans) for Eskom’s transition from a coal-heavy utility to renewable power sources, including funding for retraining workers.
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
Reading this paper really made me appreciate the challenges and intricacies of conducting economic research; the inability to fully isolate a variable makes it difficult to determine a causal effect, particularly when it comes to subjects like this one. The general trend of more economically developed regions having more gender equality can be observed, but it’s difficult to prove the extent to which equality leads to development or vice versa. Particularly illuminating was the discussion of the correlation between womens’ income/education and child welfare. Noting that there is clear evidence that improved earnings/education of the mother correlate with better child welfare, the author is clear that this may not be a causal effect. It is possible that a father who lets his wife work is more likely to make decisions in his children’s interest, and the two factors are therefore both caused by this third element. The reading also made clear the extent to which attitudes and power relations within families are responsible for hindering female empowerment. Prior to reading the article I was aware of institutional and societal hurdles but didn’t sufficiently consider the role of the family in preventing women from participating in the economy and education. The discussion of division of resources between the husband’s and wife’s land holdings was particularly interesting to me. Despite a more equal allocation of resources being mutually beneficial, families tended to under invest in the wife’s land, leading to significantly lower total production. I would be interested in further reading about steps that can be taken to change perceptions of womens’ roles within families to address the fact that often it is their own family members who are holding back their agency and restricting their potential to flourish.
Toggle Commented Oct 19, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I thought this reading reaffirmed a lot of what Rodrik wrote in the reading for Monday. South Korea’s growth strategy was unorthodox and made the most of unique opportunities (allegiance with the US, foreign aid, emulation of Japanese success), succeeding in rapid development. Some of the factors that enabled that rapid growth, however, seem to be potential liabilities moving forward - the close and occasionally corrupt relationship between industry and government, the dominance of a handful of companies over a disproportionate share of the economy, etc. It will be interesting to see what strategies the country pursues in the years ahead, in terms of sustaining long-term growth. I would, however, have liked to have read more about the high inflation and rapidly-growing debt Korea saw during its development. Were there any significant negative effects on development caused by these factors? If not, why is it that they didn’t cause problems? Tangentially, I wonder if the social disruption of such rapid development, perhaps exacerbated by quality of life indicators lagging behind economic growth, played a role in causing the incredibly low birth rates of the country today (~.8 births per woman). It's certainly interesting that among the commonalities between the "asian tigers" is that they all now have fertility rates far below replacement, even lower than Japan's.
I thought it was interesting to read this analysis and liked the way the authors compared a variety of countries, though there are also certain topics I wish it addressed that it did not. The paper spoke of institutions but only seemed to discuss policies implemented by the state, without dwelling on the underlying institutions themselves. For example, how might a military junta affect the economic climate? What is the role of a respected judicial system? State institutions have a much greater effect than just their economic policy decisions. Having read this paper, I would like to read an analysis that looks at economies with similar growth histories, to see what factors affect how effectively economic growth is translated into improvements in standard of living. It is important to understand factors leading to economic growth, but, as many other people have pointed out, the practical benefit that growth brings to people is important to consider as well.
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I thought that Krugman raised a number of interesting points in the article about the path development economics has taken over the last number of decades. I particularly liked his aside about the way European maps of Africa changed over time, noting that as standards grew more stringent, much that used to be included on maps was left off. This made me wonder about whether similar phenomena occur in other fields, or even elsewhere within economics. Krugman writes of development economics spending a period of time out in the wilderness before being drawn back into the mainstream. I wonder, as economics has moved in the direction of mathematical models, how much knowledge has been lost that is yet to make such a return. Even if a theory lacks a model, it may have some value it can offer to those of us seeking to better understand economics. That being said, I agree with Krugman’s approach; he clearly has respect for Hirschman and those who agreed with him, while noting that it is worth sacrificing some complexity if it means developing models that can keep ideas of development economics from being marginalized.
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
Having heard the MDGs/SDGs mentioned often before, it was interesting to read about the thought process going into the design of the SDGs, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the earlier MDGs. The one topic upon which I think the article should have spent more time is a discussion of anticipated challenges the SDGs will face, regardless of how carefully they are designed. One such challenge may be overcoming hurdles that hinder cooperation between lower-income countries and their richer counterparts. High income countries play an important role in the development of low-income countries, whether through aid, investment, loans, or technology diffusion. Despite the importance of this relationship, it has often been fraught, as it’s difficult to establish a balanced relationship when one actor is economically and militarily much stronger than the other. Both sides have legitimate interests, but how does one ensure that the sovereignty of the poorer nations is respected, while allowing donors/lenders sufficient oversight? Historically this is something the West has struggled with, and (as I see it) high-income nations need to ask themselves what the primary goal of their relationship with poorer nations is. Is it to achieve a genuinely mutually beneficial outcome, or to enforce and extend their hegemony over the rest of the word? All too often it seems to be the second pretending to be the first. If we genuinely want to help the world succeed in reaching the SDGs, it will mean cooperating with countries like Cuba, Bolivia, Bhutan, and others that want to develop on their own terms, not those of international lenders or the global business elite. We must understand that the current political/cultural/social conditions are different in each country, and that each country will have to follow a unique path to prosperity - a path that may or may not be the one preferred by Western business interests. I hope we can succeed in this, but the jury’s still out.
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2022 on Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 15, 2022