by Alex Tabarrok
on September 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm
From Bill Easterly's, Can the West Save Africa.
Hat tip to for the link and table to Hit and Run.
Easterly’s point is worth repeating:
All of the above seem to forget that technology does not implement itself. Technical knowledge needs people to implement it—people who have the right incentives to solve all of the glitches and unexpected problems that happen when you apply a new technology, people who make sure that all the right inputs get to the right places at the right time, and local people who are motivated to use the new technology. The field that addresses all these incentives is called economics.
The plight of Africa isn’t because we haven’t known what to do technologically. It’s implementation and incentives.
You thought mankind would become less rapacious and greedy between 1938 and 2005? That’s a touch naive.
“What kind of crazy, perverse misincentives are going on over there that basic problems haven’t been successfully solved for 70 years!?!?”
“from all according to their ability and to all according to their need”
“kill the host to feed the parasites”
A very sad, and very inconvenient truth: the environmentalists’ war on DDT has killed many millions of African children via malaria. And that is a very unpleasant way to go.
But I am sure there is a czar in DC who owes his job to the forces that made that happen, and good for him. No doubt he will help us with the impending Overly Soft Toilet Paper Crisis.
What kind of crazy, perverse misincentives are going on over there that basic problems haven’t been successfully solved for 70 years!?!?
To ask is to answer the question.
Tragic. Tragic indeed.
Nutrition and Physical Regeneration
Not the Same Jim wrote a series of things that he was “obliged to point out” that I feel obliged to refute.
Jim, you’re wrong across the board. “(T)here actually have been some fairly remarkable advances in living standards in the last 50 years…” No, clearly you haven’t seen statistics from the WHO, the UN, the EU Relief consortia or any health policy data for the last decade. Life expectancy has been declining in Africa. HIV/AIDS and unrest has led to a decrease in every health or living standard index in the past 24 years.
“…and giving more in aid and taking less in debt service has improved things further more recently.” This is absolutely wrong. Whether in Central or Southern or the Horn this is completely counter to the evidence. In every region the states taking less aid are higher achievers.
There is a growing backlash against aid that props up anti-democratic regimes and debt relief programs that seem to be fertilizer for genocide. Andrew Mwenda speaks with a more credible view on the ground than Bono. Fredrik Erixon’s studies, using UN and other public data, provided more evidence.
It was making progress until about 1917 or possibly 1945.
The vitamin A example seems disingenuous to me. Easterly says that the coverage in Africa is 80%. What was it in 1960? Maybe it’s also disingenuous for UNMP to put it on their list of “quick wins,” since pushing it higher will be much more difficult, but that’s not the list Easterly is complaining about. Moreover, as suggested by Easterly’s ellipsis, that list has it in a mere parenthetical, paired with zinc, which is a 2004 idea. Any micronutrient that can be used like vitamin A can piggyback on its already built supply channel and our knowledge of its real costs. I don’t know any such examples, but zinc is intended to piggyback on the existing ORT supply channels (it’s another diarrhea treatment). It really is a quick win.
Why do economists talk about “human capital” yet fail to take the idea seriously?
What is the average IQ in Africa?
What can be done to raise it?
Is there a correlation between GDP and a population’s average IQ?
Do we know the direction of causation?
Move along… nothing to see here.
still no all things that bad. There are few African countries which move forward ( like Botswana ), there are problems there too, still if every sub Sahara country was on par – there will be much fewer worry.
what can help?
better transportation ( as good transportation lacks in Africa ). I think that a progress in airships with projects like http://www.airshipzprize.org/
better communications ( yes there are quite a bit of cell phones in Africa already, but better coverage ( including access to ‘useful’ knowledge ) would be of a help.
So how west could help?
Build those airships, make airborne based communication platforms, covering large areas with communication capabilities, create easy to use ‘wikipedia’ like knowledge bases ( accessible by those communication means ) for population.
Just the same way the west could help other countries in latin america, russia and former USSR.
it is just that west should get more risk taking in entrepreneurship.
How to make people in west to be more interested? Maybe to create a game, where by means of better transportation, better communications they could ‘grow’ the world.
I really think that main problem is a lack of real interest to push new ways to solve problems more aggressively.
the progress will go somehow as at least Botswana went a little better than in 1938, so others will follow some day.
but it would be better if right directions are pursued to either solution or to finding that they do not work ( then applying next possible solution ).
Maybe you should read Charles Kenny’s book on development, mentioned on this blog a few times and summarised by Felix Salmon here: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/06/15/the-success-of-development/ . Short version – things are better than you think. Yes, AIDS has taken a very big toll on some countries, but in many other respects – infant mortality is a good example – there have been, *as I said* very big improvements, often funded almost entirely by aid. Aside from health, literacy and education have seen some very big improvements too. See also the book ‘Millions Saved’ from the Center for Global Development.
While we’re on the subject of AIDS, though, it is actually one of those cases, like malaria, where the West for a long time made very little effort to help and then, when it started investing large amount of money, started seeing some very good results.
Regarding the effect of aid on growth, you declare that it’s entirely negative, but seem to have forgotten to provide any evidence, apart from a tautology. Allow me to help – read this research, also from the CGD: http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/2744
Time magazine has a very illuminating piece on Africa. Of course, it’s from 1955.
So, Africans were handed the solutions to their problems over 70 years ago and chose not to use the solutions. I don’t see why it’s worth helping them, they’re like drug addicts, they can only heal themselves if they want to be healed.
I have read the article and come to know the facts about the Marginal revolution and its different categories.I agree with the point that “We also find a significant negative relationship between debt repayments and growth.” The growth of the one company depends on the shares and revenues generation process.The given surveys shows the different in their capabilities and regarding marginal capital market to be involved in it.It seems like we have a lot of boreholes over here that we could send their way for a few months
I have read the article and come to know the facts about the Marginal revolution and its different categories.
nice article,i agree with it
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