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Taylor Theodossiou
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I like how the Executive Summary is laid out, especially for someone like me who hasn’t taken Environmental Studies since my senior year of high school. By laying it out in the three different regions that have very different geographic and economic backgrounds it is easy to see how much of an impact a 2°C or 4°C change will do to each of these regions. I studied abroad in Morocco and so I can see how much just a small sea level rise will impact the area. All of the main cities, including the capital Rabat, and most of its tourist locations are located on the coast and so having these regions flooded will be very detrimental to the area. However, even to someone who doesn’t know much about global climate change I felt like many of the conclusions were fairly obvious. For instance, it seems logical that an overall warming of the earth will lead to more drought in already dry areas of the world which will cause farming to suffer leading to famine and other issues. My questions are similar to some of the other people who have posted already about what are some of the solutions to this problem. I know last class we discussed how there is a correlation between increasing GDP and increasing pollution in the countries of the world. My question is how do we stop this because so many people would be opposed to reducing the GDP because know one wants to see their economic value shrink especially in such a globalized world where your power is directly linked to your economic prosperity. This question becomes even more important for our class because of the bleak outcomes for development that the Executive Summary lays out. The fact that the last paragraph of the report begins with “the task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether it can be achieved at all” is a very scary one and the way the world is dealing with climate change now leads me to think that we may very well be facing these problems in the future.
I like many of my other classmates reading this article found it difficult to understand. However, I did see a similarity between this article and the idea that has resurfaced consistently in class that there is always a multitude of other factors that influence whatever is happening. Eichengreen and Mody were looking at the role interest rates of industrial countries played in the developing world, especially in relation to their creditworthiness. It makes sense that “an increase in the industrial country interest rates increases the debt service burden borne by the borrower countries, thereby reducing their ability to repay their debts and hence lowering their creditworthiness,” however; they argue that there has been little evidence to support this claim. The paper addresses the limitations of the previous studies that caused this failure of evidence and I thought it was interesting the way in which they tried to address the problem with their study. They tried to address both the supply- and demand-side effect, something that they argued their predecessors had not done, and that it was through this that they were able to determine a significant interest rate response. They still kept their model relatively simple, from what I could understand, but they were able to this model to prove something that had only been proven qualitatively before. Although I might not have understand all of the details that were in this paper I was able to see how looking at something in a new way could have profound effects on the interpretation.
I found this paper to be very interesting because it reinforced the idea we’ve been learning all semester that poverty is a function of something and that that something in return is a function of poverty. Here it is applied to the idea that agroforestry could be a much more efficient and more productive way to produce agriculture than more conventional practices such as slash and burn. It has the added benefit that it is also more environmentally friendly as there is no nutrient depletion that normally comes from more conventional forms of agriculture. I agreed with Professor Casey that there is a need for increases in Human Capital so that people can develop agency and therefore make better choices. I think a lot of what was being said in this paper we have discussed or read about already. It is especially interesting because this increased knowledge people acquire through investments in Human Capital affects the weight that is given towards the adoption of agroforestry. A farmer with no previous experience and limited education will not be very likely to invest in agroforestry. However, this led me to the same question that Madison had about why people would abandon agroforestry after a period of time? I would assume that these people would see the benefits after they had spent a certain amount of time but perhaps there needs to be a push, which would be in the form of “informal specific on-the-job training, formal training, and formal education,” so that farmers choose to adopt agroforestry as a viable and more productive option. I also like that this paper chooses to highlight a solution that goes beyond helping farmers economically. Agroforestry would also help the environment. However, I disagreed somewhat with some of my classmates who posted on the forum saying that poor countries should focus on environmentally stable practices because of the negative impact that developed countries have had on the environment in the past. I would argue against this because it promotes the idea that these underdeveloped countries are incapable of making the “right” choice without the help of a developed country. Instead I would argue that helping the poor through an environmental lens is necessary simply because it gives people more agency. A farmer who is taught about agroforestry may choose to continue to use the slash-and-burn technique, however, he now has a choice. And knowledge about the environment and the benefits of agroforestry might add weight to his decision even beyond the obvious benefits that this type of farming has.
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2014 on Econ 280 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I agree with Ferrell that it is interesting that both of these articles focus on human capital. Schultz says that the common idea that the poor don’t try to change their economic situation is not true. The poor are especially entrepreneurial, which flies in the face of the idea that the poor have given up on the economic struggle. However, in order to really help the poor, human capital must be of utmost importance. The skills and knowledge of these populations need to be raised. This leads to Schultz talking about how it is important to focus on population quality so that there can be economic growth. By investing in population quality such as acquiring information and skills through schooling or investing in health a population can really benefit. For instance, he goes in to talking about how investments in health care can benefit the poor greatly. If health care is better people will have longer life spans, which then provide additional incentives to acquire more education, as investments in their future earnings. This ties in very nicely to the Sachs and Malaney article on the economic and social burden of malaria. This article describes the correlation between malaria and poverty in underdeveloped countries. When I was in the Dominican Republic I got to experience the negative effects of a disease similar to Malaria. While Malaria wasn’t a big problem in the area I was living in another disease very similar called Chikingunya was spreading to everyone. Although only life threatening in rare cases the symptoms of Chikingunya can prevent a person from being productive for up to three weeks because of high fever and bone pain the disease brings. Therefore it can be very detrimental to a person’s ability to work, much like Malaria is. The spread of Chikingunya was also very detrimental to the tour industry in the Dominican Republic that summer. People did not want to go to a place where there was a potentially deadly disease that they had never heard of before. This is what was especially frustrating. People did not know much about the disease and therefore there wasn’t much being done to keep it from spreading. Sachs and Malaney talk about the many ways that Malaria can be prevented and how much this will benefit the populations that are affected by the disease.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2014 on Econ 280 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I agree with others who have posted that he did not address the stereotypical image of child labor. Although some people have criticized him for focusing on the issue in such a rational way I think he did this purposefully. He was not focusing on the sweatshops or sexual slavery because he attempting to address the aspect of child labor that, as Jacob pointed out is an “overwhelmingly” rural and agricultural phenomenon. This problem is much harder to address because so often it does happen on family farms and is therefor not as visible as the sweatshops or the sexual slavery. However, Udry is providing a solution that addresses this seemingly unseen type of child labor. The idea of subsidies as a solution to the problem is an interesting one to me but I think Kate makes a good point in saying that he is ignoring not only social context but political and economic feasibility as well. He is making the assumption that the government will have the stability and the authority to be able to provide subsidies. Even if the government, or some other organization, is able to provide the subsidies there are other issues at play. While working in the Dominican Republic this summer I was conducting surveys on families who had children enrolled in the schools run by the non-profit I was working for. Many of the children did work to help support their families and were facing some of the same issues Udry addresses in his paper. However, many of the children also did not have access to good education because they were Haitian and therefore not well liked by the Dominican government. In this instance a subsidy would not help because, first, the Haitians are seen as second class citizens and would therefore never be given the subsidy, and second, because they have very little access to the public schools. Here it is the social and political contexts that are forcing poor families to chose to send their children to work rather than to school.
Toggle Commented Oct 23, 2014 on 280 Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Like the others who have posted on the forum I see Krugman’s point that models are necessary when looking at economics. I also think that their fear of oversimplification is also a valid point. Krugman believes that we must simplify in order to deal with complex systems because, after all, that is what economists are trying to do when they build these models. I agree with Krugman in that models are very useful tools especially when our resources limit us. However, as he gave his example of the dish-pan I was reminded of other models that had been created to use climate change. Back in the 1970s when computer models were first being used to determine climate change they were very inaccurate. They predicted an ice age in the coming years when in reality the world continued to get warmer. As the models became more advanced the scientists realized how wrong their previous models were. Because there are so many factors that go in to predicting what happens in a complex system it is often very difficult to know what will happen. Although this example isn’t perfect when comparing it to development economic models I believe it demonstrates Krugman’s point that models shouldn’t be taken too literally. While their results weren’t accurate the models still showed that human interaction with the climate could have drastic effects. However, unlike Krugman it also shows how dangerous oversimplification can be. Although he dismisses the inaccurate information found in the fifteenth century maps I believe this misinformation to be almost as dangerous as a blank map. A person who uses this map believes the information presented to him and will therefore make inaccurate conclusions about Africa, conclusions that are still reflected in our stereotypes about Africa today. While simplification may be a useful tool making inaccurate conclusions based on these models, no matter how conscious we are of the simplification we will still be making inaccurate conclusions. I believe it is very important to at least try and understand all of the factors that go in to a complex system, as difficult as this may be and that we should be trying to fill in all the blank spaces of the map.
The challenging of traditional economic theory aspect of Rodrik’s paper was, like many others who have posted on the forum, what I found to be most interesting. It has always made sense to me that different countries should be approached in different ways, after all there are always vast cultural differences between countries, and so it seemed only logical when Rodrik pointed out that we should take an individualized approach when trying to develop a country’s economy. I also liked Alexandra’s point on how economists should use and develop their theories but should always remember they are only theories and realistically cannot be applied to the entire world. Even the non-traditional approaches shouldn’t be used in the exact same way. According to Rodrik “different packages have different costs and benefits depending on prevailing political constraints, levels of administrative competence, and market failures,” which leads us to the clinical approach. It makes sense that we should take an approach similar to that of a doctor. Identify the problem so that the right “medication” can be given. However, because Rodrik’s approach is so broad I find it hard to tell what is the right answer in development economics, if there even is a right answer. According to Rodrik we shouldn’t rely only on traditional approaches because it is clear that non-traditional approaches like China’s and other Asian economies have worked. However, unorthodox methods don’t always work, such as Argentina’s experiment with a currency board. The idea of experimentation, like the work of Duflo, is an interesting one to me. And I agree with others when they compare Rodrik’s idea of experimentation to Duflo’s. Duflo, however, works on a much more localized scale and so I wonder how experimentation would work on a larger scale when dealing with an entire country’s economy.
Toggle Commented Oct 2, 2014 on ECON 280 Paper at Jolly Green General
I apologize for the previous posting. I was posting to a separate forum and it copied wrong to this forum. Here is my actual response to the two articles. I agree with Sam Smith’s idea that the “world is not ready for gender equality” because, as she effectively showed in her post, there are underlying stereotypes that are too pervasive. Others also commented about how these stereotypes created ideas about a “maternal instinct” among women. Like Callie, I found it especially worrisome that women in low-income countries were seen as poor investments and were often less likely to be treated than their male counterparts. The fact that there is sex-selective abortion in even higher-income countries means that this bias isn’t limited to poor countries. However, I don’t think that it should in any way discredit the role empowering women has on developing economies and vice versa. Both articles demonstrated just how much impoverished areas benefited from women empowerment. In the Gitter and Barham article we see that giving women power within the home can be beneficial to the families as a whole. The women in Nicaragua were more likely to keep their children in school, which is generally assumed to be a positive effect. Duflo presents us with different ways in which economic development causes women empowerment. For instance, providing more opportunities for the women in the labor market “would provide a strong catalyst for the treatment of women to change for the better.” I would also argue that this leads to an improvement of the stereotype I discussed above. If women are more active in the labor market then they well become less associated with the home and will therefore gain more power. I believe that the stereotypes that women from all parts of the world must be addresses first by giving women opportunities through economic development.
Toggle Commented Sep 25, 2014 on ECON 280 paper #2 at Jolly Green General
I agree with Asha in that I have to change my current paradigm to civic engagement. I believe that our work is attempting to create an improvement in Rockbridge County by reaching out to multiple different facets of the community and then coming together to discuss them. Many of us know a lot about poverty, however, by actually going and interacting with the community we are able to do much better. I believe that the fourth tradition is the tradition of philanthropy that I relate to the most. I believe that poverty is too complicated of a problem for it to be solved by addressing one aspect of the issue. As the essay pointed out on their own each of these traditions have weaknesses. Blindly throwing money at a problem is very problematic in that it doesn’t address the cause and instead focuses on the superficial issue. Although it may help in the short term in the long run it most likely won’t solve the problem it was addressing in the first place. Philanthropy as improvement attempts to address this issue by making the individual responsible for their betterment. However, this attitude blocks entire groups from taking advantage of opportunities provided by this type of philanthropy. However, by combining the two, and even three with the tradition of social reform, people might be able to use the benefits of each tradition to address their weaknesses. Using civic engagement to understand the problems within the community is key to helping solve problems. I believe that the idea of study circles, neighborhood associations, and “partnering” with communities is a much more effective way to help impoverished people and their communities. I have especially noticed this with international poverty. Often communities do need the help and aid that foreign aid agencies or even local governments are providing. However, often times these organizations do not understand the issues the communities are facing. In the Dominican Republic one of the neighboring communities had a group come in and build a play ground for the kids. They built it right next to the community happy that they were now giving every child the opportunity to play. However, if they had taken a closer look at this community they would have realized that the children already had a playground, up the road close to the community grocery store where everyone spent their leisure time anyways. Adults would sit around the store while their children played and so they did not need this new but closer playground. By simply taking a closer look at the community, which is what civic engagement encourages, the group would never have built that playground in that location. Obviously this is an extreme example yet I think it describes accurately what happens when we don’t address the community and ask them directly what they need. Although I find that each of these traditions is disagreeable in its own way I believe that the tradition of improvement to be the most disagreeable. Like many of these traditions it is idealistically very sound. However, I believe that this type of philanthropy is the most likely to cover up the underlying issues. As the article pointed out it will block out a large majority of the population even though it may seem like it is working based on the small amount of successes it has with certain individuals. In practice I do not think the tradition of improvement does a good enough job to reach the entire population and therefore I find it to be disagreeable.
Toggle Commented Sep 25, 2014 on ECON 280 paper #2 at Jolly Green General
I really like the Banerjee and Duflo article because it forces us to look at the importance certain goods and services are to the poor. I think that the article did a good job explaining how the poor must find creative to make money or get “insurance.” Also, there were many things about this article that stood out to me. The first thing that surprised me was the emphasis on entertainment and festivals taking up a portion of what the poor's income. However, I realized that this type of thinking was simply a factor of my being privileged and living in a developed world. We take for granted a lot of things in our world and so I don’t think it is fair, and I believe Banerjee and Duflo would agree, to just make the claim that the poor need to focus simply on necessities such as food. In order to properly nourish themselves would they need to spend all of their income on food? I do not think that this would not be a very good way to live. I think it is necessary, no matter how little you make, that you be able to enjoy at least some form of entertainment in your life. I was also surprised by how entrepreneurial the poor are and how the article explained how it was beneficial for the poor to be entrepreneurs. I believe the Duflo and Banerjee article explained this entrepreneurial tendency well. On page 20 they say "if you have few skills and little capital, and especially if you are a woman, being an entrepreneur is often easier than finding a job: You buy some fruits and vegetables (or some plastic toys) at the wholesalers and start selling them on the street…" At first glance it seems that this is an ingenious way for the poor to help themselves. However, Duflo and Banerjee point out that this entrepreneurial tendency is a way to lessen risk and the businesses they start aren’t always unique because they are often low risk and it is easy to enter in to these markets. The story of the fertilizer I found to be incredibly interesting, especially the way Duflo and Banerjee used it as an example of how poor people don't save. I was surprised by the two different outcomes of the surveys. I am confused by the why the Kenyan farmers seemed to save in one circumstance but not want to save their money another. Is it simply a lack of education that causes the differences in spending with the vouchers or no vouchers? And why is saving so limited among the poor? I would like to understand more about this scenario and whether or not it translates in to other aspects of poverty and in other regions of the world.
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2014 on 280 reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 17, 2014