USAID

The 9/11 values of a development economist

With all the hatred, mistrust, and conflict associated with today’s date, it’s a good time for a development economist to describe his  or her values.
I believe that all humans are created equal, that they have inalienable rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of religon, and freedom from persecution because of race or religion.
That includes not persecuting members of a religion because some OTHER members of that religion have done evil.

Our Afr*c* P*rn problem gets worse after we try to make it better

UPDATE 9/10/10 1:30 PM: Barbara Streisand and anti-Muslim bigotry (see end of post)
Yes, after that post that admitted our P*rn problem and tried to get out of it, the problem has gotten even worse, like rapidly. The original post Famine Afr*c* stereotype p*rn shows no letup has now climbed from 4th to 3rd most popular post of all time.

Beautiful fractals and ugly inequality

UPDATE 4pm: is there any point to this post? see end of text
UPDATE II: 4:30pm Critic cuts me some slack. see end of text
UPDATE III 11am, 9/10/10: Paul Krugman says he had the idea first (see end of text)

Welcome to economics, all you students (and aid workers)

Today, for the first time in my professional career I taught Principles of Economics. I’ll be teaching this all semester long and giving occasional reports from the classroom.
The officially required duty of all Principles instructors is to first define economics. Here is the definition from the 18th edition of McConnell, the most popular text on the market and actually the exact same text I used in my own first econ class 35 years ago:
Economics is the social science concerned with how individuals, institutions, and society make optimal choices under conditions of scarcity.

Knowledgeable, powerful expert in charge of development strategy admits he is fictional

Just a day after completing the country’s Comprehensive Development Strategy, the expert in charge of Development admitted that he does not actually exist. The expert had done a superb job prioritizing the needs of the poor across 9 major sectors and hundreds of development interventions, not to mention mainstreaming gender and the environment. He had calculated the country’s financing requirements to attain the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the country’s needs for neutral, humanitarian peacekeeping forces to end the civil war, along with a post-conflict strategy to re-integrate combatants, and a timetable for fair, competitive elections.

Be Careful What You Export

Our distant ancestors had a biological constitution awfully similar to our own, and, like us, only 24 hours in a day. Arguably the main reason we have so much better lives than them is that we have better ways of doing things (broadly conceived). So it makes a great deal of sense that much of the work in development planning and foreign aid consists in exporting ways of doing things. Technology and scientific know-how are the most easily obvious examples, but we also export methods of organization and governance.

Statement from CARE on Bruckner FOIA Request

AidWatch received the following statement from CARE regarding Till Bruckner’s AidWatch post on USAID and NGO transparency:
Statement from CARE (Aug. 30, 2010):

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Hayek

Universidad Francisco Marroquin recently made available both the video and transcripts of a series of interviews with F.A. Hayek from the mid-1970′s. Not only do they furnish an in depth look into the ideas of one of the past century’s most influential thinkers, and pair him with some of the other great economists of the past half-century, they do so with a level of style that only the 1970′s could provide.

Help the World’s Poor: Buy Some New Clothes

This is a guest post written by Benjamin Powell, an assistant professor of Economics at Suffolk University and a Senior Economist with the Beacon Hill Institute.  He is the editor of Making Poor Nations Rich, and is currently writing a book entitled No Sweat: How Sweatshops Improve Lives and Economic Growth.
Back to school shopping leads many people to buy apparel that was made in sweatshops. Rather than feel guilty for “exploiting” poor workers, shoppers should rejoice.  Their spending is some of the best aid we can give to people in poorer countries.

Turning over Aid Watch management for a week

Dear Aid Watchers,
Both Laura and I are away for a week starting today.
I am cutting off the Internet entirely for a week in a bid to regain my sanity, so anything addressed to me in any Net medium (email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comments) I will not see for a week.
In the absence of Laura and I, DRI post-doc Adam Martin has generously agreed to take over as Guest Editor for a week, beginning with this morning’s post about what we can learn from city plans based on shapes of zoo animals.
See you after Labor Day! Bill

Constructivist Cartography

The development blogosphere recently lit up with news of South Sudan’s plan to rebuild some of its urban centers in the shape of various animals.

Africans do not want or need Britain’s development aid

Editor’s note: This letter was published in the Telegraph (UK) on 22 Aug 2010 with the title given above for this post.

SIR – The parlous state of the public finances in Britain provides the perfect opportunity for British taxpayers to end their half-century-long experiment with “development aid”, which has, since its inception, stunted growth and subsidised bad governance in Africa.

The Battle for the Dream

 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream today!

Pete Boettke: economist extraordinaire

The WSJ has a well-deserved, laudatory profile of Peter Boettke of George Mason University. The Journal stresses mainly his role in the Hayek vs. Keynes debate. I have learned from him in the area of Hayek vs. central planning, the subject more relevant to my own interests in long-run development. He is also a generous colleague and friend. Congrats, Pete!

Transparency International clarifies the debate, deplores attacks on Till Bruckner

Editor’s note: Transparency International Georgia submitted this contribution to the debate originally sparked by Till Bruckner’s post The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test.
We at TI Georgia have closely followed this debate about whether and to what extent USAID and its NGO contractors should make their budgets public. Till Bruckner began his quest for answers while he was working with us in 2008-09, although his pursuit of the NGO budgets via FOIA requests to USAID was not conducted under the auspices of TI Georgia.

I have a dream: the Powerpoint aid jargon version

Recycled this on Huffington Post for tomorrow’s 47th anniversary of MLK’s greatest speech of all time.

This just in: there was a flood in Pakistan

We have chronicled here on Aid Watch how media coverage of disasters influences disasters, and how late the US media has been to the story of the disastrous flood in Pakistan, with apparently anemic donor response as a result.
Puzzlement deepened this morning at 7:30 am when I picked up my NYT off my doorstep and saw the four column front-page headline: Much of Pakistan’s Progress is Lost in Its Floodwaters.  The NYT devotes not only the huge front-page space to the flood, but also two prime pages inside of the first section. Could somebody please explain the mysterious alchemy by which a tragedy going on for a month already finally become a huge story?

NGO Transparency: Counterpart International to release budget

Editor’s note: Aid Watch received the following statement from Counterpart International in response to a request for comment on Till Bruckner’s post The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test.

Laura in NYT debate on Can Aid Buy Taliban’s Love?

NYT DEBATE: Can Flood Aid Weaken the Taliban in Pakistan?
Or is it more likely that extremist groups will capitalize on the chaos created by the disaster?
Laura Freschi’s answer: aid doesn’t help with the Taliban, but give anyway.

The idea that flood aid will change Pakistani perceptions about the U.S. in a lasting and meaningful way is both unproven and based on simplistic, even condescending assumptions about the beneficiaries of America’s aid.
….

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