The Big Push Failed

In 2004, Jeff Sachs and co-authors revived an old theory to explain Africa’s failure to develop, the poverty trap, and an old solution, the big push.

Our explanation is that tropical Africa, even the well-governed parts, is stuck in a poverty trap, too poor to achieve robust, high levels of economic growth and, in many places, simply too poor to grow at all. More policy or governance reform, by itself, will not be sufficient to over-come this trap. Specifically, Africa’s extreme poverty leads to low national saving rates, which in turn lead to low or negative economic growth rates. Low domestic saving is not offset by large inflows of private foreign capital, for example foreign direct investment, because Africa’s poor infrastructure and weak human capital discourage such inflows. With very low domestic saving and low rates of market-based foreign capital inflows, there is little in Africa’s current dynamics that promotes an escape from poverty. Something new is needed.

We argue that what is needed is a “big push” in public investments to produce a rapid “step” increase in Africa’s underlying productivity, both rural and urban.

Note also the mosquito bed nets being used for other purposes, AT.

As the title of the blog might suggest, I was skeptical. But even if a big push wasn’t exactly the right idea, I’m all in favor of Big Ideas and Sachs pursued his Big Idea with tremendous skill and media savvy. Pilot programs were soon up and running and then quickly expanded into full programs. In June 2010, the Millennium Villages Project released its first public evaluation and that is when things started to fall apart.

The initial MVP evaluation claimed great success but simply compared some development indicators before and after in the treated villages without comparing to trends elsewhere. In 2010 such a study was completely out of step with contemporary practices in impact evaluation. Red flag! Clemens and Demombynes showed that comparing to trends elsewhere significantly moderated the impact. A second MVP paper was published in the Lancet but then was quickly retracted when Bump, Clemens, Demombynes and Haddad demonstrated that it had  significant errors. Clemens and Demombynes wrote a summary piece on the controversy then in an astounding and under-reported scandal the MVP tried to stifle Clemens and Demombynes. The MVP, with Jeff Sachs at the head, also sicced their lawyers on Nina Munk and her book, The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. More red flags.

Yet, despite all of this controversy and bad behavior, the MVP project continued to move ahead and in 2012, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded US $11 million into an MVP in Northern Ghana that ran until December 2016. Under the auspices of the DFID, we now finally have the first in-depth, independent evaluation of one MVP project and it doesn’t look great. The project did some good but the big push failed and the good that was done could have been done at lower cost.

Overall, the MVP in northern Ghana did not achieve the overall MDG target to reduce extreme poverty and hunger at the local level. Where there are attributable changes to the MDG targets, these tended to be the more limited changes than those that will fundamentally improve people’s health, educational and other outcomes. For instance, the project did increase attendance at primary school (Goal 2) but did not go beyond this MDG and improve the learning outcomes of children; the project did increase the proportion of births attended by professionals and women said to be using contraceptive methods (MDG indicators), but it is not possible to assess the effect on maternal health (Goal 5); and the project did increase the number of toilets (a target under Goal 7), but not beyond this MDG in terms of hygiene and sanitation practices. There are, however, exceptions. The project had a remarkable impact on stunting, which is a long-term health indicator and a predictor of socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood.

So the MVP had some good effects on some indicators:

But is this impact sufficient given the size of the investment? And, by doing everything together, is there a synergistic effect that offers greater value for money than would arise through implementing individual sector-based interventions? In our cost-effectiveness analysis, we demonstrate that the project has so far not yielded sufficiently positive results, and what has been achieved could have been attained at a substantially lower cost (even when we take account of investments made for future usage). As such, the project seems to have fallen short of producing a synergistic effect; and the impact is not large enough for the project to be regarded as cost-effective, even when each sector is assessed independently of the others. Of course, in the longer run, the MVP may produce welfare gains. Importantly the investments in improving the health care service may enhance health outcomes later on; or other considerable investments in infrastructure (roads, health and school facilities) may have an impact on future outcomes. 

Perhaps then, the most concerning findings are the early indications that the MVP approach will be difficult to be sustained by district institutions and at the community level; and there are signs that any gains made under the project are already being undermined.

Addendum: Andrew Gelman and co-authors, including Jeff Sachs, offer a broadly similar although less negative in tone evaluation of the entire MVP project.


It seems like technology is moving in directions that ought to be good for rural Africa. Solar power and smartphones ought to go together well. It's hard to build and, especially, maintain old-fashioned electricity and telephone grids, but the newer technology requires less cooperation and attention to detail to operate. Once isolated country people get connected to the Web, they will tend to become aware over time of better ways of doing things. None of this suggests a revolution in well-being is imminent, but steady progress from a low base ought to be attainable if the population doesn't continue to explode.

Is this your work Sailer or did you cut-and-paste it? It doesn't even address the AlexT post.

Bonus trivia: AlexT's post is 'old news' except for details, see the excellent book from economist William Easterly, "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good" – February 27, 2007. When this book came out, Easterly was almost unknown, even Googling his name would yield the more famous jurist Easterbrook, but now he's well known.

I'm taking a different view of this whole post. This seems somewhat positive: someone had a theory of what would improve the quality of life of a set group of people, they tested it out, it was subsequently evaluated and turned out not to be as positive as the original theorists had hoped and expected. it's not a tragedy, but rather a positive failure - one where we can learn from what didn't work and possibly implement changes to make the approach more effective.

Lots of problems with it (Sachs' and the MVP's behaviour), but in general there should be more of this sort of thing. More people testing out ideas, investing into communities that need it, and having the results evaluated and disseminated. Of course, if they then learn from the results, even better, but a somewhat successful programme that's been evaluated is much better than a programme that's had a net negative impact.

@Andrew MacPhee - thanks but I doubt the Sachs' camp is being so diplomatic. They are in a business--the business of charity--and it depends on sponsors believing their storyline.

I find it dismaying that so many charities seem to be involved in disreputable behaviour - pillaging by the executives, advancing bogus arguments, adopting the policies of charlatans, pursuing iffy legals cases, interfering in politics ... in general, of self-serving bureaucracies that are sometimes downright crooked. In Britain now there's probably only one national charity that I would contribute to. (Embarrassingly, it's Christian - ah well, so be it.) I like to hope that with local charities we'd hear on the grapevine if they were "bent".

And then there are the policies that are just bonkers. One educational charity wants me to contribute even though one of its current policies is deliberately to bias educational admissions against any grandsons I might have. Fat chance!

You shouldn't be dismayed. You should be outraged. The overhead for staff and smiley-glad-hands-dinners you find in these orgs is outrageous. On top of that the money they do provide in charity/altruism they end up giving to other charitable orgs! It literally ends up being 90% funding the charity/ies...maybe more.

I wouldn't be surprised if 3/4 of these orgs aren't money-laundering operations.

Anybody serious about charity work or giving a charity ANY money should look to see if the people supposed to do the giving of your money are actually "getting their hands dirty." Stuff like micro-lending as an example where they are doing in-the-field evaluation.

" laundering..."

You mean like the Clinton "foundation"?

No, the Clinton foundation wasn't about actual money laundering. It was about power. If you are the head of a foundation that can make hundred million dollar decisions then you have power. Traditionally named foundations were funded by the families named. The Clinton's managed to do it with other peoples money. It is perfectly legal and very ... creative.

The problem in Africa is tribalism and family culture. If any African were to become industrious and start a small business and accrue profits and acquire the accouterments of wealth any old member of his or her family could come to him and demand that he share with his family and even force him to do so. Ditto with his tribe where a leader could come to him and insist that he share his wealth and personal property with the tribe. Therefore there is no incentive to be industrious and work hard to better oneself. Simple as that.

Polygamy works similarly. More money more wives zero increase in savings. Low national savings rate, low level of capital accumulation.

Isn't polygamy a form of capital accumulation?

It's the principle agent problem when people outsource caring or just make it a specialty and sacred (veiled).

Africa is possibly the richest continent on the planet, as far as natural resources is concerned, but instead of being among the wealthiest parts of the world it's among the poorest. The continent should be home of the richest nations on earth, it should be a place people migrate to, instead of migrating from. To justify this unusual situation, we are told it is because of corrupt governments in Africa which are at fault for the poverty in these countries. What we're not told, is that no other type of governments are allowed, as only corrupt governments are put in place to allow foreign corporations to loot these countries at their discretion, leaving no wealth in these vastly rich countries apart from miserly kickbacks to the puppet governments that protect and permit this colonialism to take place.
Why does no one mention this?
Well, some have addressed these issues but with little success. Even the Secretary General of the UN, Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold met an unfortunate end in 1961 while efforts were under way to decolonise Africa. It was firmly understood by this action that efforts in this sense were not going to be tolerated, whoever might try. Now, we must remember that the people behind these companies have been trading with human lives for centuries and I don't only refer to the slave trade, let's not forget that wars are waged for profit so, war is a business where lives are invested for gain. Lives are constantly being traded for profit.

What is the current thinking on Paul Collier's analysis in "The Bottom Billion"? Has any attention been paid to his proposed solutions to the development trap?

No reason to panic, by the time we are expected to die, only 1 out of 2 global citizens will come from subsaharian Africa

The poverty trap in Africa is likely caused by low average IQ, as documented by Richard Lynn.

I suggest you make an experiment:
Feed one of your children the same way most subsaharians can feed his ones, and feed another like in the western world.
Also send the first one to a african like school and the other in a western school.
After 20 years, check IQ.

American blacks score better on IQ tests than black Africans but still well below whites and Asian-Americans. It is possible that nutrition and other environmental factors explain some portion of the IQ deficit of Africans, but they probably do not explain all of it.

@Beliavsky - racism is why American blacks are lower in IQ than the US average.

Bonus trivia: Asians came from sub-Sahara Africa, as did island Greeks (but not mainland Greeks), says mitrochonrial DNA, linguistic evidence (tonal, 'click' languages, sound like Chinese) and physiological features (epicantic folds, also found in Xhosa people).

Bollocks. As far as is known all modern humans descend from people who left sub-Saharan Africa. How in God's name could "mainland Greeks" be an exception?

@dearieme - aside from the theory that many hominids gave rise to man, and interbred (kind of like Neanderthal and Cro-Magnum (sic)), there's evidence even for the "Eve out of Africa" thesis that there were several migrations out of Africa, that's how. So the mainland Greeks, who are largely more European than the almond eyed, frizzy haired island Greeks, were part of that second or subsequent migration. Speaking as an expert in this field...

"racism is why American blacks are lower in IQ than the US average".
You are so out of touch. The correct answer in the current year is "Russians!"

Excellent! :-)

Granted that both comments are true, what do you do? Any program designed to help the children grow healthier will need parents capable of implementing it. Nothing like a bit of money to give them a leg up will work because the basic cognitive ability to make advantageous decisions isn't there. The extreme danger of a relatively smart person being able to fool the donors and program implementers to set up a private fiefdom is very high.

It would also mean that any study who didn't look at the results over two, maybe three generations is meaningless.

There is way too much focus on IQ. Choose your favorite group - they lived tens of thousands of years without developing science, technology, or wealth. Humanity worldwide has lived in the Stone Age for the vast majority of its existence.

Given that, I think the kick off to technological advancement had to have a lot of luck involved. And the difference between nations now is a blink of the eye compared to thousands of years of history.

I think this common error, to lay too much on small IQ differences, and too much on short time frames, comes from too static a view of the world. It is like you wake up, without a knowledge of deep history, and try to explain the way the world "is."

The paper "A systematic literature review of the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans" found an average of 82, and it was responding to a paper that found an average below 70. Even 82 is more than 1 standard deviation below whites, which is not a small IQ difference.

Do you doubt that a test given in France 5000 years ago would be about the same?

Right, but everybody else managed to boost themselves on to a track for accreting technology during the Neolithic, while the Global South stagnated. What's going on--proximity to the North Pole? Or is it the three C's--Christianity, Crops and Cold--rewarding certain hereditary traits?

I'd say outlaw polygamy/polyandry, Islam, animism, and cousin marriage and teach them, I don't know, either Christianity or Buddhism.

Point being there is a mechanism for closing the gap, it's defeatist and wrong to simply say 'welp their IQ is too low so nothing to be done'.

I've proposed two things: sell the countries to billionaires, or duplicate the selection effects of the three C's.

Or you can just hire young people to hand out protein powder and antibiotics and lecture everybody about LGBTQ rights.

"LGBWT rights"

Well, they prolly won't stop f*cking, so it is fertile ground for Planned Parenthood. They could spilt off a subsidiary called "Panned Parenthood" - f*cking without mouths to feed. Give them some free cows birth control pills and let them figure it out.

Whatever we do, please no boatloads of illiterate people with IQs below 85. To allow those hoards to set foot on our soil would be a collosal error, the beginning of the end.

Yeah, but what if that mechanism was selection pressures from subsistance farming, five month winters, and highly oligarchical social structures (ala Gregory Clarke)? That's gonna be hard to replicate in 21st century Africa.

There's plenty of parts or Africa making things work, it's a very big place. Just need more Ghana and Rwanda and less Congo and Somalia. Easy for me to say of course.

I don't disagree, but it seems like even the best parts are still a long way from Paris.

Did anyone argue otherwise?

I am speaking metaphorically.

Rwanda? Are you kidding? So they need a good old fashioned genocidal civil war?

Well, it might be worth a try ...


Like the US after our civil war, Rwanda is doing pretty well today. That was almost 25 years ago. It would be better to have countries emulate Rwandan success while skipping the murdering part.

What they needed was a good old-fashioned strongman, and they got him.

I always wondered why Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize just for standing there in the Oval Office for two weeks while being half-black, when Paul Kagame actually went about the business of ending a genocidal civil war.

That was a dumb Nobel. Even Obama was embarrassed by it.

Your bigotry is showing. The Middle East was once, and yes under islam, the richest and most developed region of the world, with the possible exception of China. An analysis of European civilization a thousand years ago would have identified numerous pathologies, and people might well have concluded that Europe was destined to remain a permanent backwater

Islam has a terrible track record. They singlehandedly squandered Byzantium. Not even Muslims want to live in Muslim countries.

Go back far enough and the Mayans look good too, except for the whole dismembering-people-and-throwing-them-down-the-temple-stairs part.

Byzantium squandered itself, though with a big assist from the Venetians and the the 4th Crusade. Therr's a reason "Byzantine" has the meaning of complicated corrupt and underhanded politics. The "Game of Thrones" was an ongoing reality in Byzantium.

"but everybody else managed to boost themselves on to a track"

I think Alex knows that Africa has grown tremendously in the last 50 year blink. He's talking about the problems of Sachs' method vs that background, and not an imagined stasis.

To determine whether it's climate/environment, white American conservative elite infant children need to be placed in African orphanages with space available from Clinton/Gates/GW Bush PEPFAR programs drastically cutting AIDS deaths of parents. See if these white children with white conservative wealth genes come to dominate the African population by survival of the fittest, like homosapians came to dominate Neanderthals. White conservatives should be happy to participate to expand the land available to whites without engaging in genocide. This would be iinvesting in the long term future of white Americans.

Listening to Jeffrey Sach's EconTalk episode from a few years back was excruciating. His vanity and petulance around MVP was unlike anything I have ever seen from a guest on that show. His mindset seems to be that if you don't accept that the MVP was one of the greatest humanitarian action ever undertaken, you are a contemptible anti-intellectual.

Why is humility so prized? Sachs was in character, believing his own B.S., not unlike Sasha Baron Cohen. To be an effective salesperson you have to be like that.

You answered that question, Ray. You cultivate humility in order to avoid believing too much of your own bullshit.

BTW, today I learned that genetic ancestry is "oppressive race science." The identitarian left needs a little humility. And their newfoud allies on the right.

It’s not “oppressive race science “ when it “proves” you are part Cherokee. Apparently!

On a more serious note, I wonder which “far “ group will be the most virulent in banning genetic discussion. My money is on the far left doing so.

Apparently there has been this thing that normally stays below the radar, that some Native Americans consider genetics to be tools of the oppressor. A surprising number of SJWs have jumped on board to oppose Warren's even taking a test.

And then Trump. He has a sudden ally as he tries to squirm out of his bet. He's happily quoting Cherokees now, that genes do not a Cherokee make.

I think the millions of Americans who study their own ancestry, including using genes, find themselves in an odd middle position.

Still though, it is amazing the degree to which left identity politics and right identity politics are united (against science).

"He has a sudden ally as he tries to squirm out of his bet. "

Trump's an idiot. He should pay off the bet. 1/1024th of $1 million is $976. He should publicly donate the money to Warren's favorite charity on Friday afternoon.

This would completely hijack the news coverage over the weekend, 3 weeks before the election. That kind of press coverage is worth 100's of millions of dollars.

+1 Brilliant!

"1/1024th" is a squirm and abuse of the science as well.

You know somebody is an ideologue when they pick and choose on stuff like this, when they cannot take the determination of scientific experts directly.

"The test by a Stanford genetics professor finds "strong evidence" that Warren's heritage included Native American DNA six to 10 generations ago."

Big deal. It's unlikely that any Native American tribe would consider it as being sufficient to be eligible for membership, or even sufficient to qualify as a "minority" law professor at a university like she did.

At best, she's guilty of "truthful hyperbole."

Basically Trump is pulling his classic transition from "you're lying" to "you're telling the truth, but I don't care."

True Trumpians will follow him on that.

What is Warren pulling? We all have plenty of random ancestry 6 to 10 generations ago, but it's kind of dumb to identify as that 200 years later.

Yikes. It seems the average opinion shows a very low scientific literacy. Maybe Warren is "in trouble" for that reason.

I mean people are throwing around group averages like they do apply every one of us, which is on nonsense, because many like me personally know all of our immigrant ancestors.

But most importantly most of us have unknown ancestry. Once we take a test the unknown becomes a known.

Warren result is now a known quantity judged "strong evidence" by domain experts.

It's really terrible that Trump takes the lower bound of their results, that "1/1024th," and treats it as an upper bound.

Is American Scientific literacy so low that everyone will follow along?

Sorry, Warren fan. Take the upper bound then. If I have a black person in my lineage 6 generations back, am I black? If I'm 1/64 Cherokee (6 generations), I ain't getting a casino license.

That is just moving goalposts. Warren never applied for a casino share. All she did was share a family history. Now confirmed.

Are you backing yourself into such a corner that no one should ever share family history with you?

All of us have a family history of being African, including Cherokees. Is there no cutoff for you where it doesn't really apply? 12 generations? 15? 25?

I think you caught yourself out.

If Warren had said "I descend from Africa," would you have called her a liar, and bet her a million dollars?

If Warren had said "I may have had a Cherokee ancestor 200 years ago" none of this would even be a topic.

As I say, you can spot an idealogue when they use the lower limit as the answer.

And you can spot a polar bear when they refuse to give any limit.

Here is something for you really do think about.

Why should a positive genetic test be treated as a negative?


Here's something for you to think about:

How far back can we go before we can't really claim to be 'part' such and such? We all have the same blood if you go back far enough, so when does it become meaningful?

You have completely lost the thread. This was about whether Warren was lying about what her grandparents said, or whether those grandparents were lying about their history.

We now know that they were not lying. They remembered.

This exchange is hilarious. Bravo!

And a negative test is obviously the limit.

I expect I have a negative test for Native American heritage .. basically it would need migration of the genes back to Europe first and then back with me, long odds.

Because of course that is my family history.

Are you such a partisan that you will make sharing family history of a crime?

What are you going to do about that pesky census that asks everyone to share?

The f*ck are you talking about?

Don't you know the true history of this controversy?

Warren did nothing more and share her family belief of Cherokee heritage, and the right-wing called her a liar.

Is there any distance back in one's family history where you would consider that belief, if not a lie, at least a little disingenuous? What's your cutoff? If it's millenia ago, then, well, you do you. How many centuries back does it not count for you?

There is one thing that would have put lie to the story, and that is a negative genetic result.

The complete absurdity here is that partisan morons are treating the positive negative result like a negative.

An equal absurdity is the other team's partisan morons are treating one (metaphorical) drop of blood as meaningful.

Look I can't stand Trump, this isn't about him. Again, if Warren had just said "way back in my history I think I had a Cherokee ancestor" none of this would be a topic.

The whole genetic ancestry industry is based on metaphorically and literally drops of blood.

When someone says you are 4% Asian, that is information.

When someone says you are 0.1% Cherokee, that is also information.

Why even engage?

There isn’t even enough full blood native Americans to make a determination to the 1,024th degree anyways.

Remember she’s listed at Harvard as a Native American faculty member.

That’s apparently been rewritten as ‘sharing Her family history.’

On the other hand who cares, she supports idiotic policies.

An intelligent person would see two separate issues here. I've chosen one, the topic of whether Warren is, as Trump has claimed "a liar."

She is not.

Now Trump wants you all to look at the rabbit.

Now how those stupid ancestry forms work on everything from our kids SAT to the census forms, And how those apply to Affirmative Action. Those are issues too. FWIW, I'd stop asking people to name their ancestry to the government entirely. And I'd do income based Affirmative Action.

Shorter: Warren took pride in her family history. Genetic results now confirm that family history.

More accurate: Warren claimed to be a proud Cherokee. Genetic results confirmed that 150-200 years ago one of her ancestors was one. As usual, the result will be viewed differently depending on which political tribe (ha) you are in.

Feel free to show actual quotes and not your partisan slander.

Here's a quote: "Warren took pride in her family history"
Here's another: "The test by a Stanford genetics professor finds "strong evidence" that Warren's heritage included Native American DNA six to 10 generations ago."

Up to the reader to decide if it makes sense to consider oneself to be proudly part of a group based on one member in your family tree 200 years ago.

Oh my God, what a crime. Someone took a story from their grandparents and took pride in it.

And then science confirmed the story, the horror of it all!

Crime? Horror? Only to you. To us she said something kind of silly, and is now being called out on the silliness. It wasn't her grandparent who was Cherokee. It was someone somewhere between great-great-great-great grandparent and great x 8 grandparent.

She told the family history, the family history is true.

I guess it is kind of interesting that such a memory can last 6+ generations, but who are we to say it should not?

What are you shouting now at Warren, "your family remembers too much!"

I'm more like speaking to you, asking how far back does it count? And you are refusing to answer.

I have said repeatedly that negative test would be the lower limit. That is, no ancestry.

And as I just said that's what the whole genetic ancestry industry is all about. This isn't about big stupid racial groups, this is about a personal genome down to percentages. It is these small percentages that differentiate Dane from Swede.

Do you just not know the science?

Do you not know what orders of magnitude are? Is 0.1-0.4% Cherokee meaningful?

Your detractors have lost it. Let's make Warren 3.2% = 1/32 cherokee for the sake of argument. That goes below the threshold for tribal membership, and below the threshold for being declared "not white" by racists like Jefferson and the slave holding south:

Very unlikely that she has any Cherokee ancestry whatsoever. The test only suggests American Indian- could be anything, Mayan, Taino. Perhaps most likely of all, Ashkenazi jews are very often confused for Native Americans in genetic analysis (see Larry David being "33% Native American")

This is the only valid criticism on the page, but of course depends on the type of test, and the latest state of the science.

As far as I'm concerned everyone else is just faulting Warren's family for having good memory.

Selectively remembering one in 256 of your ancestors 8 generations back is not exactly what I'd call "good memory". Perhaps a fixation would be what I would call it....

The scientific result was 6 to 10. Six seems easily possible. Someone learns that their grandmother was a NA, and tells their grandchild. One knowledge transition. It could even be one if great-grandmother and great-granddaughters were involved.

And of course with two hops of family memory you go much deeper.

I have heard stories about my grandfather's grandfather. Many people probably have that experience.

Your math is wrong. 6 generations isn't your grandfather's grandfather, that's 4 generations. 6 is your grandfather's grandfather's grandfather. Two 'knowledge transitions'. Most people have no idea what their 6th generation ancestors were even named.

Really dumb hill you've chosen to die on here. This one is pretty cut and dried. I suppose she wasn't "lying" about Cherokee ancestry, but she was being pretty disingenuous, and calling herself a Native American on websites and so on is pretty lame.

"but she was being pretty disingenuous, and calling herself a Native American on websites "

To clarify, she was identified as a minority at Harvard. Indeed, she was identified as Harvard Law School's "first woman of color".

Sure, 10 generations is also equally as possible as 6 and both are less likely than 8.

Note that one drop rules were racial politics not science.

I wonder if people are even aware they make a reverse binding that way.

The fact of the matter is that thousands of Americans send off blood samples for genetic ancestry. If they get back positive results for Native American most people will be happy, even in small percentages.

You just want to deny that to your political enemy.

You might be trying to deny a happiness you would even enjoy yourself.

"I am part native American, cool. But not her, not cool."

You are the dumbest smart guy here.

Also, you have no clearly don't know where I stand politically which is weird considering how much we are both here.

You are really looking foolish here. 0.1-0.4% Cherokee doesn't count. Certainly not enough to claim Native American reparation privileges. Small percentages indeed.

Why do you keep lying about the percentage? To make yourself feel better about a bad argument?

Your grandmother's grandmother gives you 1/32 of your genetic ancestor. That's just math.

It's like you nitwits want Warren's G.G. to give "more" to be "right."

The bottom line is that Trump called her a liar and offered a million bucks if her test was positive. It was positive.

I think I've found the problem, you think 6 generations is your grandmother's grandmother. That's one grandmother too few. 6 generations is your great-great-great-great grandfather. That's 1/64. 8 generations is 1/256 (the midpoint of the 'science'), or 0.4%. At MOST she is 1.6% Cherokee. Bruh, she's not Cherokee.

That's just correct math.

"Your grandmother's grandmother gives you 1/32 of your genetic ancestor. That's just math."

You're bad at math. msgkings is correct.

I wonder if part of this is a division between people who have a fixed idea of race, that is that you can only be one, and those who have the correct scientific outlook that we are a mixture of genes.

We are all mixtures of genes, and the small percentage just trace my ancestry throughout the world.

One of the neat things we learned recently is that even Northern Europeans carry genes from the Fertile Crescent, because agriculture came in with a migration of people.

The genes are our ancestry, not identity politics today about tribe or race.

"Harvard Law School in the 1990s touted Warren, then a professor in Cambridge, as being "Native American." They singled her out, Warren later acknowledged, because she had listed herself as a minority in an Association of American Law Schools directory. "

I acknowledge this.

But I think it's a recent invention, and almost certainly motivated thinking, that everyone should have a fixed percentage in mind about such claims.

Can you tell me where the fixed percentage we should all use is written down? Has it been available for all our reference for decades?

If no one cared until the casinos that should be a big red flag.

Ambitious people often lie about themselves or their resumes. For some reason in my state it's their academic credentials they fudge or invent, and that seems to be a career-ender.

Like countless others whose people came through the Southern states, and whose actual heritage was mostly forgotten, I have an exactly parallel grandmother tale. In my case, my GM, who rather showily admired and enjoyed reading about the Indians, especially the horse cultures, as many did after the close of the frontier, often hinted at a rumored Indian ancestor - but the Peaceful Tribe, as per usual - and pointed to her coal-black hair, which she apparently believed to be impossible without Asiatic ancestry. She also had excellent bone structure, I have to admit, and dark Irish eyes and an overall regal look which made her claim seem less ridiculous. Since her hair turned snow-white in her twenties, none of us could gainsay the coal-black business.

Not being in cloud-cuckoo land, it certainly would never have entered my mind to assert that I was Native American on this absurd basis, or to bring it up to academic administrators!

Still, Warren's a different breed, I get that. Ambitious people gonna embellish. It's hardly a cardinal sin. I agree with other commenters that this probably could have been laughed off, if her moment had not coincided with her party's decision to embrace the revival of identity politics, pure and stripped of all nuance.

She's from Oklahoma: it's getting kind of hard to recall now, but in that state's early decades social position was naturally unsettled, and boasting about Indian blood would not have been done, quite the reverse. I imagine some lingering trace of this atmosphere gave her a warm feeling of moral superiority - at the very least even her partisans must agree she seems a very self-righteous sort - to proudly mention an Indian connection, even if it was wholly unconnected with OK's Indians or fraught history. "See? I am not a snob. I am full of fine feelings." She's probably having difficulty coming to grips with how this innocently-meant example of her virtue has been "twisted" and portrayed.

Good post. That's all I'm saying, if she had just mentioned that she had a Cherokee ancestor somewhere this wouldn't be a thing. But she put herself out as a 'Native American' and by any reasonable definition she is not.

anonymous has a real hard time admitting error.

I remember that as well; he sounded like Kellyanne Conway. Then he took one kinda out of context utterance of Russ' from an earlier podcast and proceeded to get all indignant about it. If you've got millions of dollars to give away, I can't imagine hearing that podcast and thinking Jeff Sachs is a guy you want to give it to.

Do Easterly and Sachs just glare at each other in the hallways?

Inquiring minds...

Who ever traveled around Africa will see than the best we can do for them is to build reliable roads. Is an asset than can't be stolen and will give them a great economical push.

Roads won't be stolen, but they do need to be maintained.

The Belgians built an infrastructure in the eastern Congo in the first half of the 20th century. They had rail lines, highways, factories, and powered river travel. Since independence in 1960, it has all but disappeared. This is chronicled in Tim Butcher’s book “Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Country.” As it stands today, anything brought in by African neighbors is an act of war, and anything from Western powers will simply be stolen and destroyed. Colonialism failed to develop Africa for the Africans. Instead it plundered African resources for the benefit of the colonizers. In the eastern Congo, development at the local level cannot help, because as soon as something is put in place, marauders sweep through and take everything, leaving human bodies and burned huts behind.

Yes, those are good points. But in many African countries, where the are not war, a good transportation infrastructure (no highways, but normal roads) could make the difference.

We can do it, or let Chinese do it.

It's not the role of the U.S. government to build roads in Africa. American companies can do so if they think it will be a profitable investment.

China, unburdened by guilt over slavery, may be more clear-eyed about Africa than the U.S..

"Roads won't be stolen, but they do need to be maintained."

But roads for humans on foot and for animals don't need as much maintenance as roads for vehicles.

And roads limited to vehicles will be useless for 80% of Africans who start in poverty and thus will not even be able to pay others to carry them based on pricing for maximum profit and paying for use of capital to generate a profit for road owners who paid outsiders with heavy equipment to build the roads.

And if you allow non-vehicle use of roads, they cease to be very productive.

Take for example the roads built in the US prior to 1900. In 1900, motor vehicles were a proven technology, limited by bad roads. The Good Roads campaign that was established to create paved roads for bicycle users was high jacked to provide Good Roads for wealthy motor vehicle advocates.

Long distance travel was cheap enough for the common man by water and rail because of economy of scale driving maximizing paying customers by cutting prices for short periods of discomfort compared to weeks and months off discomfort of trekking on foot powered travel with periods of work to provision for the next leg of the trip.

Of course, railroads have only been build as big government central planning programs, just as all the stages of Good Roads movements that followed building railroads.

Afghanistan economic costs to the US fell a lot when rail access into Afghanistan eliminated the burden of trucking stuff in from sea port through Pakistan and then Afghanistan. If the US Army still had its rail road division, rail across Afghanistan would have made moving supplies from NATO allies much cheaper while providing the means to develop high tonnage crops to export to Europe. The export of drugs equal in value to a rail car of apples requires only a couple of motorcycles which don't use roads.

Culture culture culture culture culture. I just read recently that relatives in mid-continental Africa (I can't even remember which country) they are once again stealing back the dead bodies of relatives killed by Ebola, only so they can literally show up back at medical facilities bleeding from their eyeballs. You can have $14 million dollars. You can have $1 billion dollars. Does. Not. Matter. When you've got a cultural disconnect like that between cause and effect, or a disconnect between latrines and hygiene, or a disconnect between using the mosquito nets and getting malaria.

And to reveal the cultural disconnect even further, Master P of rapping fame said it best. Dumping money into the black community here would result in bigger rims and bigger chains but no real wealth. Sure they'd be least a while.

Bad money after bad money after bad money. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result, kind of like stealing ebola victims to bury them in an unsanitary fashion.

....maybe we're the ones that are nuts.

When you've got a cultural disconnect like that between cause and effect, or a disconnect between latrines and hygiene, or a disconnect between using the mosquito nets and getting malaria

That's not a "cultural" disconnect. That's a cognitive disconnect--an intellectual capacity disconnect. Literal "Idiocracy."

The Indian government has built public toilets as part of a campaign to reduce the "open defecation" that hurts Indians' health. Progress can be made, but it is up to the individual countries.

The swachh bharat initiative you're referring to has largely been regarded as a failure by the international community.

There huge numbers of Indian communities that were documented turning them into religious shrines.

Individual countries maybe, but also individual people as well.

...old habits die hard. Stubborn Attachments

Point taken, but I believe that the body stealing is being done for religious burial purposes, making is more culturally associated.

Africa is mystifying. Even under the apartheid regime in S. Africa and Rhodesia the influence of Western culture was having an effect within the indigenous community for the good. I have a friend that just returned from JoBurg and he mentioned it's completely retrograded. The Chinese are completely re-colonizing them in some places in Africa and they make fun of them all the time about how they've completely squandered the benefits they received from European colonization.

I like the phrase "cultural followers" but it's rarely used. The only context I've seen it in is referring to Christian missionary work. Basically, the first sect to get there--the Presbyterians or the Catholics--gets to make the big cultural imprint on the locals. Then some other group comes along and the locals get excited and run off after them: Evangelicals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses.

Some countries seem to benefit from top-down leadership, like Rwanda and its strongman Paul Kagame. Syria seems to be coalescing under rule by the comparatively cosmopolitan-minded Assad family.

Coalescing! LOL, I gotta see your dictionary.

How many Syrians do you know?

Same as you. And I know what words mean to boot.

I know about a dozen families, and they know many more families, and we talk. Is that how many you know?

Syria seems to be coalescing under rule by the comparatively cosmopolitan-minded Assad family.

Per the Maddison Project, the ratio of Syrian per capita product to American per capita product was 0.165 in 1950, 0.17 in 1962, 0.13 in 1969, 0.115 in 2010, and 0.067 in 2016. I'm not seeing how the Syrian public benefits from the Ba'ath Party or the Assads.

The benefit from not getting burned alive by Muslim fanatics and being able to walk to Sunday services unmolested at your Melkite, Orthodox, Syriac, or Presbyterian church.

The Ba'athists as originally conceived do not exist outside a few academic conferences. Nobody but a few old people seriously believes the Soviets will drive those nasty Jews into the sea and Nasser will unite the Arab-speaking world into a giant, profit-sharing venture from all the oil money.

Economic statistics in a place like Syria are useless. Nobody reports their income. And the highest they will ever aspire to is a Mediterranean house-party and café culture with the occasional quant genius.

People are repatriating to Syria now. I know several families that have returned.

Economic statistics in a place like Syria are useless.

No, they're just inconvenient to your thesis.

I'm going to hypothesize that the alternative to the Assad family is some carpetbaggers being kept on ice by the State Department in the US or Europe, some fanatical Wahabbists with lots of support from the Sunni lumpenproles, and a whole bunch of wealthy Syrians you've never heard of with large extended families angling for their own shot at dictatorship.

I doubt the economic statistics would be better under any of the alternatives. I think Bashar Assad is as good as it gets.

On the face of it, we are the ones who are nuts. What they are doing is not stupid. What we are doing is.

They have high fertility and low survival. By these two they get a locally stable population matched to the carrying capacity of their environment. We have low fertility and high survival and achieve the same, a locally stable population matched to the carrying capacity of our completely different environment. But some solution looking for a problem virtue whores come along and think Africans should adopt both low fertility (the contraception initiative) and high survival (toilets, malaria nets, physician assisted births, etc.) seemingly without even realising these two factors have to balance each other, ultimately and throughout the transistion. Africans wisely do not wholesale upset their whole system. A good thing.

It's like an AM radio station in Arizona telling an FM station in Colorado "You're doing it wrong."

I am well aware there are significant differences between peoples all overy the world. I don't think this is a problem, from either trench in our current culture war. It's just global federalism. They get to do them. We get to do us. To me, it is disrespectful to Africans to treat their continent like a social experiment lab (from which we refuse even to learn fast, compounding the trespass! Oh! Vanity Fair, Vanity Fair) and I'm glad that they are wily enough to hold these experiments at bay. Good for them.

Going meta, it remains to be seen what the perils of leaving Africa to the Chinese for the extraction of its natural resources are. Aid has always been a convenient cover for involvement. But a conversation on that can't be had without shutting the door on Annie Hall.

Stop making sense, China Cat.
One can only hope that current and coming generations will be so absorbed in their phones, that they will carry out a truly interesting experiment, and leave Africa the hell alone.

Cell phones are made out of Africa, though. A shit ton of high tech industrial and consumer products and processes rely on rare materials found in abundance underground there.

I actually agree with some of what you have to say on this.

Eugene Weber, Western Civ professor at UCLA used to say that aid and altruism actually "condemned as it saved" specifically because it doomed African communities to continued dependence on aid. But that for some it was a kind of mea culpa of several centuries of exploitation.

But the world is different now, and just like all the other "first contacts", its consequences can't be put back in the bag. So do we help them because we contacted them? Even while it creates further dependence? Do we leave them alone and wash out hands of the issue? Do we do what we do now which almost seems like "reparations" (bad money after bad) which goes nowhere anyway?
Are they our responsibility? How colonial of us....

Any way you choose still ends up causing arguments over the issue and does them no good. I think the way forward is to see more Africans helping Africans...but that doesn't seem to work either.

But yeah, I think aid to Africa has long ago passed the stage of actual altruism and is virtual signaling at this point. That you hit the nail on the head.

That is missionary thinking.

The absence of transportation infrastructure is a byproduct of the colonial era. Although the colonizers built railroads in Africa, the rail connected agriculturally rich areas to the coastal areas for export. It takes a well-developed transportation infrastructure to spur economic development. See China. I've expressed in comments my concern about the neglect of transportation infrastructure in America and what it will mean to America's future economic growth. America isn't Africa, but our infrastructure lags behind that of China and Europe. Cowen, and I assume Tabarrok, aren't all that enthusiastic about investment in infrastructure. Whether that is the result of unfavorable attitudes about government and government spending generally or ambivalence about the benefits derived from up to date infrastructure, I don't know.

Yeah, and the colonisers destroyed the intricate network of motorways that was in place when they arrived. What rotters!

And confiscated all the natives' cars! Absolute bounders!

but our infrastructure lags behind that of China and Europe. [CITATION NEEDED]

This myth of crumbling infrastructure in America is being pushed by obviously self-interested parties like the American Society of Civil Engineers and also by statists who don't understand what the word "investment" means and so think that all government spending is good spending.

This myth of healthy modern infrastructure in America is being pushed by obviously self-interested parties like the Ayn Rand Circle Jerk Club and also by libertarians who don't understand what the word "investment" means and so think that all government spending is bad spending.

Our road system is great. Our passenger rail system aspires to third-world quality.

"The absence of transportation infrastructure is a byproduct of the colonial era."

Do you have any kind of link to support that statement?

No he doesn't. It's a lunatic statement.

Maybe he thinks Black Panther was a documentary.

rayward, Post Colonial theorist.

I am late to the party of ridiculing Rayward!

"America isn't Africa, but our infrastructure lags behind that of China and Europe."

We (USA) actually have a rail transport network for goods that is profitable, and interconnected with a network of barges on rivers, both are much more cost (and fuel) effective than the trucks that transport the bulk of physical goods in Europe. I don't even want to talk about the profitability of Chinese infrastructure, although in terms of utility for rail passengers, it is superb. But Chinese profit numbers are a bunch of baloney. Remove capital controls, so peasants don't have to put money into thieving Chinese banks that are propping up too big to fail projects, and I will take economic statistics more seriously.

Is Sachs one of those economists who helped loot Russia? Or am I confusing him with some other Harvard chum of Larry Summers?

That's him too.

"But even if a big push wasn’t exactly the right idea, I’m all in favor of Big Ideas and Sachs pursued his Big Idea with tremendous skill and media savvy."

I don't get Alex sucking Sachs' kneecaps at all.

This is incorrect bordering on defamation.

You are thinking of Andrei Shleifer and Sachs was the one who pulled the plug on the operation as soon as he was alerted to what Shleifer was up to.

It was a question not a defamation. But thank you for answering it.

Stunting is a huge deal. It is highly correlated with the cognitive impairment mentioned by the racist above. There may be more efficacious ways to reduce stunting, but if all the MVPs achieved was a large reduction in stunting it was money well spent.

If there are more effective ways to reduce stunting, then the MVP money was not "well spent."

The mean g intelligence is too low to support sustainable development and self-rule by Western standards. If you're not going to let evolution run its course then you should just sell these territories to the highest bidder and let them figure it out.

If we could stick you in a time machine and send you back to, say, Germany in 700 AD everything you say about Africa would be true there as well. The future is not a fact a slave to the past or present as you seem to think. All kinds of unforeseen and unforeseeable stuff happens.

I'd much rather live in Merovingian Germany than Africa.

Like most hypotheticals, depends on the details. How wealthy you are and what part of Africa. I'd rather be an urban professional in 2018 Accra than a peasant in 700 Frankfurt, but I'd rather be a king in 700 Frankfurt than a prostitute in 2018 Kinshasa.

I'd imagine that comparison of the Empire of Mali to the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century would be interesting. Which classes are better off in this case?

Did the Black Death reach as far south as Mali? Were there mass antisemitic pogroms there as Germany experienced during the Plague Years? The 14th century was not a good time to be in Europe.

Sure, but we aren't trying to "fix" 700 AD Germany. We don't have the idea that 700 AD Germany "should" be catching up to 2018 USA within a few generations, or that the main reason it's undeveloped is because of evil colonizers. There's no expectation that either small nudges or "big pushes" would rapidly turn 700 AD Germany into a functional, stable, productive modern state.

I don't think I share many political views with the people who tend to bring up IQ and g in these contexts. But surely, at this stage, the prima facie conclusion has to be that it's a dominant factor underlying differential development, and that, if we insist on intervening, we should work within this framework instead of trying to ignore or fight it.

We'd probably get 5 IQ points just thru decent public hygiene so people aren't laboring under incredible bacterial and parasitic loads. But like I mentioned, it's easier to get your social science degree and hand out protein powder and lecture the natives on "institutions" and "democracy" than it is to build potable water supply and separate systems for sewage and stormwater. They also need a big cultural push toward K-selected reproductive practices.

It's been shown that foreign trade works better than foreign aid at enhancing growth.

"The findings of this paper strongly suggest that foreign aid and trade are strong determinants of GDP per worker, albeit in opposite directions. The regression results are robust to the inclusion of a multitude of exogenous variables that are considered to be determinants of GDP per worker. Foreign aid is a commonly owned resource, powerful individuals and state heads establish property right in the system and, as a result, rent extractors expend resources resisting deregulation that attempt to remove that privilege. On the other hand, the empirical evidence reaffirms that international trade appears complementary to economic performance."

Ali, Abdiweli M. and Hodan Said Isse, 'Foreign Aid and Free Trade and their Effect on Income: A Panel Analysis' (2007;2008;) 41 The Journal of Developing Areas 127

Interesting that Abdiweli Ali is now the President of Puntland (Somalia) and has been accused of corruption. Somalia: Puntland minister resigns, cites high-level corruption,

Many of the commenters seems to focus on identifying why Africa is not growing. But that is the wrong question. Africa is growing, particularly in countries where good governance has begun to take hold.

Nice list. The median country has a growth rate of > 4%.

This is an interesting statistics, but I wonder what growth is left, if you subtract Indian and Arab traders, (the remaining) Boers, natural resources, FDI and State and NGO sponsored direct aid?

There are a few isolated success stories, like Rwanda, that seems to have good government (post war African version of West Germany?).

On the whole, the above listed growth statistics is not incompatible with the median African living like a peasant under the roman empire, without any significant change from year to year.

The GDP of the Roman empire closest to Rome was $1,800 in today's dollars but closer to $1,000 in surrounding regions outside of what is now Italy. So a few African countries are around $1,000: Congo, Somalia, Liberia, and Niger. A few are closer to $1,500 like Madagascar but more are around $2,200: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Sudan and Kenya are near $4,000 and Nigeria is at $5,300. Then of course there are the wealthier countries like Botswana and South Africa with a GDP per capita at around $18,000.

It is mixed. The Ivory Coast with 25 million people has been growing since 2010, which is good, but its GDP per capita (PPP) at $3,600 is about where it was in 1990.

Senegal has steadily grown per capita from 1995 but only at an average of 2% a year.

Kenya's GDP per capita has grown 3% a year since 2002 but its $3,600 GDP per capita is about the same as in 1990 at $3,000.

In large Nigeria, the growth news is better as its GDP per capita was flat from 1990 to 2002 at $3,000 when it started to grow at 3% a year, reaching $5,300. Unfortunately, it's inequality is among the highest in the world with a gini coefficient of .49

I'd feel more optimistic about the African stats if I hadn't had a class in 1991 that showed me roughly the same stats and here we are almost 30 years later, and Africa isn't appreciably better.

Africa has seen some successes in the last six decades: about 60% of the population over 14 has basic literacy and life expectancy at birth is now around 60. Also, a measure of political pluralism is found all up and down the continent (though there are also about a half-dozen failed states where the central government is notional). What's not happened much has been improvements in general living standards. You have slow growth, no growth, and shrinkage.

If you look at the dramatic population growth in many of these countries, from the end of colonial rule to the present, one could conclude these are not really the same countries, and it’s getting worse. What happens to a tenuously functional Nigeria or Ethiopia when you add another 100 million people? Nothing very good.

I think the critical difference is that Ethiopia has had massive starvation on multiple occasions since 1979. It seems unlikely the country can easily handle a drastic population surge without further starvation.

The 1983-1985 famine had three causes. The least important of these was record low rainfall. By itself, this would not cause mass starvation--- the market and the charities will prevent that.

Except for the other two, related causes: a Communist government and it's (also commie) rebels. Communism was working like it usually does: making the politically unconnected much poorer. Poorer people have fewer options--- it didn't help they weren't allowed to sell manufactured goods or to move., but that wasn't in the plan. The communist government had starved politically recalcitrant regions when food was plentiful--- it was more than happy to deny relief to rebel held areas.

If Ethiopia can keep Marx in the history section and keep a lid on ethnic strife, nobody is going to starve.

Ethiopia experienced a drought and starvation last year (2017). So, it's not just Marxism to blame.

I know there was worry about impending famine in Ethiopia in 2017.

And the drought materialized--- leading to famines (i n neighboring South Sudan (ongoing civil war/ethnic conflict) and Somalia (civil war). See

Ethiopia is notably missing from that 2017 list. Drought has not been enough to cause famine in modern times: you also need war or socialism. The last famine caused by weather alone was 1974 famine in the People's Republic of Bangladesh, where the socialism was only a minor factor.

Ethiopia is still a poor country--- it may need outside help (my favorite is foodforthepoor). And kids are a drain on the economy until they grow up. But keep the Marx in history class and the guns put away and there will be no famine.

"But keep the Marx in history class and the guns put away and there will be no famine."

All things being equal, I would agree with you. But the assumption was a drastic increase in the Ethiopian population. Ethiopia today is less equipped to handle an increasing population than the Western world was in 1970.

So, while Ehrlich was grossly wrong with his predictions in general, that doesn't mean Ethiopia is immune to calamity.

And frankly, I think the idea of "keeping the guns away" over a decades long time frame in Africa is a bit of wishful thinking.

What is the probability of a massive famine followed by millions of Africans trying to migrate to Europe and many people clamoring to let in all the fleeing refugees for humanitarian reasons?

This was a very sudden and recent change though. Malawi had life expectancy at birth of 44.1 years as recently as 2000. With a sudden gain to 62.7 in 2014.

Perhaps the wealth-building effects of longer lives have yet to accrue.

If we lose the elephants in Africa, will it have been worth it for this period when people like Sachs could pat themselves on the back because they were *not* colonialists, the worst thing in the world?

No mention here of the pervasive lack of democracy in Africa. Ironically, Ghana is one of the few functioning democracies on the continent. Also recall Edward Banfield's culture of "amoral familism" and Bates (book Markets & States ...) analysis of how African regimes kill growth by confiscating farmer's crops via compulsory government purchasing at below world prices.

Development Economics needs to be split into two. Interventions like Sachs focus on the poorest of the poor. Same with GiveDirectly and other endeavors. These are good and should be encouraged. Yet they don't align well with history. When economic growth has occurred en masse has been with the poorest rising up but the relative middle class creating the rising tide that eventually lifts the bottom.

Our recent example is in China where individuals with no more than a high school education use savings from within their own networks to create multi-million dollar companies. The story of the Industrial Revolution is similar. Yet where is the focus on this "middle class" from economists like Sachs?

Not long ago a study by David McKenzie at the World Bank detailed an experiment in Nigeria where entrepreneurs were given $50,000 cash grants. Based on the results Chris Blattman gave the study the title "Is this the most effective development program in history?" on his blog. Yet where is the hoopla around such interventions? There isn't because it doesn't deal with the poorest of the poor.

I've been a believe in GiveDirectly from the start BUT the truth is that interventions like that only make the poor slightly less poor. Again this is important but as Obi Wan would put it "these are not the solutions you are looking for". Development economics is about affecting poverty on the margins. Not eradicating it.

The main historical way villagers get richer is they move into town.


Moving to town would include staying put and having the towns and cities grow to encompass the former farming areas.

I would suggest that Sachs et al grabbed the wrong end of the stick. What is lacking in Africa is roads, electricity, banks, bridges, railroads. Infrastructure. Also, corruption is high. This prevents trade and enterprise. I have talked to someone (long ago) who worked in East Africa and he said the high quality timber there like teak was essentially worthless without a way to get it to a market. Just one example.

"But even if a big push wasn’t exactly the right idea, I’m all in favor of Big Ideas and Sachs pursued his Big Idea with tremendous skill and media savvy."

No, history is littered with misery as a result of arrogant, sanctimonious, corrupt intellectuals like Sachs using societies as their guinea pigs for their flawed Big Ideas. He should be tarred and feathered, and then banished.

One is reminded of the sterling results from The Great Leap Forward - a Big Idea if ever there was one. Backyard smelters - what could go wrong?

Big ideas where you get meaningful constant feedback on how things are going and you have to pay attention to that feedback, and where you don't have a lot of power to impose your will on others, seem like they have the potential to work well. Big ideas where you make yourself immune to feedback by threatening legal action against anyone who points out that your big idea isn't working out are probably just pouring wealth into a hole, at best. (Add coercive power and you get a nightmare rather than just a vast waste of money.)

To me, the big question isn't 'big textile' work moving all of it's work from China to Africa? It seems like the cost of labor and environmental regulations would be even lower there, particularly nowadays. And textile plants aren't exactly hard to move around.

Are they worried about a new round of "Nike's 3rd world sweatshops" news reports??

Fake reply: Fix whatever 'that' is, and you have a path to development.

Textile plants moved from Mexico to China, and Mexico is more stable than most of Africa. So, I don't think it's as easy as you assume.

Africa is obviously taking off: Ethiopia alone is growing on average at over 9% a year for nearly two decades now. Other major African countries have also achieved substantial growth in per capita GDP over the past several decades (Nigeria and Egypt).

Average GDP per capita growth since 1990:

Egypt 2.8%
Nigeria 2.9%
Ethiopia 2.4%

(Ethiopia since 1997 5.6%; Ethiopia since 2007 8.9%)

Africa has been making enormous strides. Most of the world's fastest growing economies are in Sub-Saharan Africa. That's been the case for years.

In terms of education, primary school completion rates stagnated between 1980 and 2000 with only around 55% of students completing primary school. In many war torn countries, education rates actually fell during this period.

Since 2000, education rates have been rising rapidly throughout the continent.

14% of students in Niger completed primary school in 1996. Today it's 70%.

In Madagascar it rose from 30% to nearly 70% during this period.

Guinea? 25% to 65% in 20 years.

In Mali, literacy rates among 15-24 year olds have doubled in the last twenty years.

The health stats are even more encouraging.

In 1978, the average African woman had 6.8 children. Today it's 4.8 and falling.

Ethiopia went from 7.5 children on average in the 1980s to around 4 today.

HIV prevalence peak in 2000 at just under 6% of the adult population. Today it is down to just over 4% of the adult population and falling.

Vaccination programs are working. Measles vaccination rates have shot up from 50% to 70% in the last twenty years.

Hunger is becoming far less common. 30% of African children were malnourished in 1990. Today it's down to 18%.

The "Big Push" might have failed but hundreds of little pushes are driving enormous gains in human wellbeing.

I don't really see much probability that Africa will ever have efficient and competitive manufacturing industries at all. Asia does, for obvious reasons (which are obviously that they're just as smart as us with long term lower labour costs, missed out on early adoption of IR, but now have the advantage of being as smart with lower labour costs and lots of ideas to copy, and so it moves, aided by the foolishness of our politicians when it comes to China's mass authoritarianism).

The only thing possible seems to be to improve agricultural productivity in Africa, allow the ongoing urbanisation of Africans as service workers for each other (as farmers leave the country), and allow them to export energy, minerals, agriculture, tourism, etc. to meet balance of payments with countries where manufacturing is insanely efficient and cheap. (Parenthetically: "Who cares if the cell phones are all made in the US and China if they're ridiculously cheap to Africans?") What China's already doing, and the West needs to make similar moves and worry less about aid and pushing Africa down the path of industrial manufacturing development.

The probability that African nations will ever become major manufacturing centres is very low. We'll automate massively before their low labour cost ever compensates for their low productivity.

(The other possibility is a mass migration of African workers as low level service workers to developed countries, which is a strata they'd mostly stay at, until they so mixed with everyone else that there was little racial distinction. But a mass depopulation of Africa to developed countries where they labour as servants in a sort of permanent servile strata until we all become absorbed into a beige mass is not exactly what I think most of the world would see as a "good thing").

"The probability that African nations will ever become major manufacturing centres is very low. We'll automate massively before their low labour cost ever compensates for their low productivity."

I think this is the most likely case. Indeed, India's development has been erratic enough, that it may never become much of a manufacturing hub. That being said, Indians moving into the service, IT industry, etc allows them to sidestep the manufacturing automation pitfall. Though they may well end up in a dead end psuedo-AI service industry dead end.

Yes, India is on a very particular path; high intra-country inequality, advanced higher education system, poor primary education, poor agricultural productivity (all argued supposedly because of British, though I doubt that). So apparently this led to advanced sectors but the country weren't really able to catch up in production as fast as the strong Asian production economies because few spare labor with good cognitive skills (so compared to compared to East Asian export championing economies labor can push more easily for higher wages because scarce, needs higher wages because not much agricultural surplus, can't achieve much high volume, and has weak productivity).

Makes me think of this Pseudorasmus tweet - - where a commentator describes how "Brazil is close to a straight line, reporoducing the world’s income inequality inside a country (or a city like Rio)", and this is the path P believes India to be on.

You can see why Brazil attracts essentially no immigration. Why bother, when the country seems to compress income inequality to absolutely no extent and simply reproduces world inequality and you'll may likely end up at exactly the same world income percentile as you were from where you left? So it may be with India. In contrast, the great compression in the USA or even Russia, is a potent force of attraction.

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