Words of wisdom, hat tip Mankiw, with commentary by Aid Watch:
Politicians are in charge of the modern economy in much the same way as a sailor is in charge of a small boat in a storm. The consequences of their losing control completely may be catastrophic (as civil war and hyperinflation in parts of the former Soviet empire have recently reminded us), but even while they keep afloat, their influence over the course of events is tiny in comparison with that of the storm around them. We who are their passengers may focus our hopes and fears upon them, and express profound gratitude toward them if we reach harbor safely, but that is chiefly because it seems pointless to thank the storm. (p. 25)Yglesias accepts online curriculum even if it isn't as good as being in person, shows where our public works spending priorities are, and gives Republicans more credit for sincerity and non-hypocrisy than I do:
Their view is something like “one should do whatever one can within the bounds of the law to ensure that the right substantive outcome happens.” So if holding a lame duck session produces more conservative policy, they hold one. But if stigmatizing a lame duck session would block progressive policy, they stigmatize. It seems to me that this is how politics ought to be done. No country has competing political coalitions organized around rival views of process issues, they’re organized around rival views of important questions of substance. One problem with the structure of American politics is that we only have one team that plays this way. But the fault for that lies with the Democrats, who it seems to me have a tendency to not take their own jobs and ideas seriously, rather than with Republicans.A view of Jimmy Carter's presidency I've never heard: a positive one. Side by side with a remarkably balanced, semi-detailed take on Rwanda's president and why it's hard to discuss him.
Politics ... [is] serious stuff, and it deserves to be taken seriously. Republicans do a good job of that, and their approach to process “hypocrisy” merely reflects the fact that they have a reasonable sense of priorities.
Easterly answers (yet again) "What can I do to end world poverty?"
On the other hand, I find this question to be unproductive and frustrating. It sounds mean, but the honest response (which I have never given) is, ”look, the biggest problem to solve in economic development today is NOT what you can personally do to end poverty.” Poor people do not perceive THEIR biggest problem to be that rich people are agonizing how to help them.One reason why Kenya's constitutional vote did not descend into violence: good technology and monitoring to assure everyone the results were not tampered with.
More constructively, I want to say: Don’t be in such a hurry. Learn a little bit more about a specific country or culture, a specific sector, the complexities of global poverty and long run economic development. At the very least, make sure you are sound on just plain economics before deciding how you personally can contribute. Be willing to accept that your role will be specialized and small relative to the scope of the problem. Aside from all this, you probably already know better what you can do than I do.
And to get away from politics for just a second, I hope Mike Dixon picks up on this quote from the Journal of Consumer Psychology:
One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.Also known as "Economics: the study of being happy on a budget"