Assorted links

by on May 11, 2012 at 11:33 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Goal-oriented self-blackmailing service.

2. Bionic elephants.

3. Vodka gang markets in everything.

4. Why is rebuilding Haiti taking so long?

5. Profile of Amy Finkelstein, and recruiting wars for top young economists.

Jim Clay May 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

Why is rebuilding Haiti taking so long? Because the local culture and institutions are so f’ed up. Yes, I read most of the article, and yes, I agree with most of the criticisms aimed at the NGOs. But it’s ridiculous to focus all of the attention on those when the NGOs’ faults are not the heart of the problem.

So Much For Subtlety May 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

In fairness, the NGOs and the f**ked up nature of Haitian society are probably two sides of the same coin. You treat an entire nation like children and over time they will come to behave like children. You offer corrupt bureaucrats lots of money for being pathetic and pretty soon they will learn to be pathetic.

The NGOs are at the heart of what is wrong with Haiti. When Japan had its earthquake it did not have NGOs. Nor did San Francisco back in the day. If Haiti didn’t it would probably be vastly better off.

After all, idiots incapable of getting a real job in the West are hardly going to become great nation-builders overseas.

Bender Bending Rodriguez May 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I think you’re kind-of onto it. I work for an NGO, and part of the problem, as I see it, is that the donor nations are being particularly stingy. An international compensation firm
provides us with an annual report of what we should be paid, taking into account the range of responsibilities, the costs of living here and countries from which we expect candidates.
Last year, the increase they recommended was not delivered because one particular donor reneged on a promise of funds. I’m expecting that this year’s increase will be similarly denied.
Further, the donors don’t want to write checks to pay for organizational infrastructure, so we either create shadow infrastructure groups or do without. No, it’s all about per-project funding (bleah!).

Other managers* state that they’re not seeing many candidates from first world nations, or if they do, the offers aren’t accepted because the pay is too low**. Institutional knowledge gets lost
as younger employees bail out because of the continuing low pay. At the same time, the locals think we’re pulling in great wads of cash, so there’s some tension there too.

*The employees I manage are all hired off the local market, so I can’t speak directly to the situation.
**On a PPP basis, I’m probably making a third of what I could make in the US. Don’t feel too bad for me, as I’m taking some of the difference as psychic income.

Andrew' May 11, 2012 at 11:52 am

4. Why don’t we just accept the FEMA trailers as a successful trailer experiment? Seatainers my boy, seatainers.

Ted Craig May 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

5. Bubble?

mayur May 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Interesting that MIT seems like the top incubator of young economist talent but has problems retaining them to Harvard/Stanford.

mkt May 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I was going to comment on the same thing. Years ago — and maybe it’s true today — MIT had the reputation of having a better teaching environment than Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, etc. I.e. the profs actually cared about teaching the core classes to the grad students, and having a coherent sequence of courses. Whereas I know people who went through Harvard’s and Yale’s programs and described them as a mish-mosh of topics, often poorly taught.

That might not matter so much after one gets to the dissertation stage, but it nonetheless might affect departments’ abilities to attract the most promising-looking grad students. It used to be that one could count NSF graduate fellows as a gauge of incoming student strength but I don’t know if that’s still true, there are other factors which may make that a misleading indicator.

Anti-Gnostic May 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

#4 – because it’s a charitable and socialist dynamic. So long as you are paying NGO’s and Haitian government workers to “rebuild,” they will keep on rebuilding. Eventually the money will run out and Haiti still won’t have a single sewage treatment plant. Then everybody will weep great tears over how cold-hearted Western taxpayers just didn’t dig deep enough.

NPW May 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Funny comment about econ majors towards the end.

mulp May 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

4. Why is rebuilding Haiti taking so long?

Why is rebuilding the WTC taking so long?

Answer: Rule of law.

If only a central planner was given near total control.

chuck martel May 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

“What Amy has done, and done repeatedly, is say, ‘I’m going to use lots and lots of data and give you a more realistic, complete characterization of what’s happening.’ She can give us the number that helps us weigh costs and benefits.”

She can pile reams of data up and down the hallway outside her office and it still won’t have anything to do with my individual hypertension, failing hearing or gimpy knee. The solution to health issues isn’t government action based on Amy’s data, like always it’s about the free market.

Benny Lava May 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm
Echows May 12, 2012 at 1:54 am

5. Oh, you Americans and your silly obsession with prestige and fame. It’s not like a “second class” economist is going to be that much worse than one of the superstars.

k May 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm

ha ha, I agree

DK May 12, 2012 at 3:22 am

#4 It’s a mystery. Some things will never be understood. Things always go so well in Haiti, so what went wrong this time? I’d say, a team of GMU economists to the rescue!

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