Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Search of Simplicity

I had a brief conversation over at Owen Barder's blog about a Michael Clemens video (below). It's a 25 minute piece and well worth watching as a lay discussion of why OECD countries should open their borders wider, both from economic and ethical perspectives. His list of reasons why migration is a successful development strategy is quite impressive. The video itself is below.

I had quibbled with Barder's description of it as 'rigorous.' Clemens' other work is - I've read some of it and kept it in my files for future idea germination - so I'm confident that there is rigorous work behind the presentation. But there's a lot of correlation/causation handwaving and the potential for 'after the fact' fallacy. Clemens himself popped into the conversation and, after a substantive discussion, gave this bit of zen for speaking with the uninitiated:
My main attempt was to say oversimplified things that are not far from true (since nothing that’s perfectly accurate is ever simple).
Combining this post with my last, the question is how to get the right amount of complexity vs. clarity. I'll have to give this some thought and see if I can find one that is "just right."

Here's Clemens:

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