Since everyone is currently talking about the MDGs and how they may or may not be achieved on time here is a nice piece from Bill Easterly.
According to an Oxfam study, eliminating US cotton subsidies would “improve the welfare of over one million West African households – 10 million people – by increasing their incomes from cotton by 8 to 20 per cent”.
I may not always agree with Bill but I think his basic approach to development is spot on. Just like in most human endeavors (politics, economics, sports) systems based on human goodwill are bound to fail while those based on self-interestedness thrive. There is no magic bullet in development, but there is definitely a better approach than is currently being employed. Lets not forget that aid is supposed to eventually lead to self-reliance.
It is already clear that the goals will not be met by their target date of 2015. One can already predict that the ruckus accompanying this failure will be loud about aid, but mostly silent about trade. It will also be loud about the failure of state actions to promote development, but mostly silent about the lost opportunities to allow poor countries’ efficient private business people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Bono has a slightly less realistic more hopeful take on the progress towards achieving the MDGs.
I just finished reading two excellent books: In defense of elitism by William Henry III and Dead Aid by Ndabisa Moyo.
The former book deals with how society (American but it can apply anywhere) may, over time, be dragged down by its less savvy members in the name of egalitarianism. I do not agree with Henry on all the issues addressed in his book. I particularly think that he is misguided on his views on education and the feminist movement. But overall I think he has a point about the ever increasing vulgarization of the mainstream – in an ever increasing tide of anti-intellectualism – in order to accommodate the common man.
Moyo’s book is one of the best I have read on development in a long time. It kind of reminded me of Collier’s the Bottom Billion. And the book is a fast read, with the chapters seamlessly connecting with one another. I am a terrible book critic so I am just gonna say: go read it.
And speaking of Paul Collier, check out this fascinating debate. I like this, I only wish there were one or two heavy hitters from the continent weighing in on this. Where are you Prof. Wantchekon?