Eyes Wide Shut: Philanthropy Action on the “Rescheduled” Sachs vs. Clemens/Demombynes debate

Tim Ogden at Philanthropy Action issues a petition for the “rescheduled” (quotes in original) Sachs vs. Clemens/Demombynes debate on evaluating Millennium Villages, which was supposed to happen last Wednesday, to be indeed, well, rescheduled.

Physics Envy in Development (even worse than in Finance!)

Andrew Lo and Mark Mueller at MIT have a paper called “WARNING: Physics Envy May Be Hazardous to Your Wealth,” also available as a video.  The takeaway, which is equally relevant to Development as to Finance (the actual topic of the talk),  is that inability to recognize radical UNCERTAINTY is what leads to excessive confidence in mathematical models of reality, and then on to bad policy and prediction. 

Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings! (R. Feynman)

Millennium Villages: Moving the goalposts

Here on the blog, we’ve been following the progress of the Millennium Villages Project, a joint effort from the UN and Columbia’s Earth Institute that has introduced a package of development interventions in health, education, agriculture and infrastructure into 14 “clusters” of villages throughout 10 African countries.

Between the Massive Middle and Ivy Elite

UPDATE 9am, Oct. 27: commenter says too rosy a picture of Middle? see end of this post
There has been a lot of talk this political season about Ivy League Elitism. My own background—of belonging and yet not quite belonging to the elite— makes me very conflicted.

The myth of Ethiopia’s “natural” disasters

As Amartya Sen has shown, famines in our times are not true natural disasters, but more often the consequence of bad governments and their bad policies. Revisiting the era of Live Aid for a book review in The New Republic, David Rieff gives evidence of how the Ethiopian famine was framed as a natural disaster rather than a political one, so as not to “complicate” the picture for viewers:

The Juan Williams Logic Test Edition

UPDATE: some of my dear satirically-challenged readers did not quite pick up on the ironic tone of this post, so I have made a few changes. Others seemed to be missing the point that I am mocking fallacious logical arguments, so let me just clarify that I am mocking fallacious logical arguments.

Tribute to Center for Global Development (CGD)

Dennis Whittle has a nice post praising CGD. I couldn’t agree more, even when not agreeing on every issue with Nancy Birdsall and the brilliant staff she has hired at CGD.

Yes, critics also appreciate a little sympathy every now and then

From Megan McArdle in a different debate:
The rest of her post puts me in mind of the phenomenon that William Easterly has described in development circles:  the recycling of ideas that have failed before, always unveiled with much fanfare, but no real explanation as to why this time is different.  Frankly, it makes me understand why Easterly sometimes gets a little testy.

Reader exercise: please explain “aid fungibility” to our Secretary of State

UPDATE: OK I finally define fungibility (see end of post). It involves brothels.

 the United States said Friday that it planned increased aid for Pakistan’s military over the next five years.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement in Washington …
In announcing the aid, Mrs. Clinton did not discuss the administration’s moves to stop financing certain elements in the Pakistani Army that have killed unarmed prisoners and civilians.
On Thursday, senior administration and Congressional officials said that the Obama administration planned to cut off funds to those units.
From today’s NYT

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