Monday, April 11, 2011

Comparative Institutions

What is development and capitalist happiness, USSR edition:
When the Soviet authorities during the 1940s exhibited the 1940 movie The Grapes of Wrath as evidence of how miserable the poor were in capitalist America, it backfired.  What amazed the Soviet audiences was that the Joad family fled starvation by car.
A literature review on connections between agriculture, development, and health. Audibert concludes that the link from agriculture to economic growth is well established, but when agricultural projects are carried out they are not always managed appropriately to prevent the spread of diseases. Improving agricultural methods (e.g. integrated pest management) and investing in public goods (health and education) would significantly improve health and development outcomes. It includes a useful and detailed summary table at the end with numerous papers on the subject. Audibert, Martine (2011) “Endemic diseases and agricultural productivity: Challenges and policy response,” presented to AERC Biannual Research Workshop.
The World Bank is contemplating turning into a foundation to fund NGOs. I have several reactions. 1) I really don’t think this is the Bank’s comparative advantage. 2) They haven’t had the best track record in picking winning countries. How are they going to pick winning NGOs? 3) If it amounts largely to a greater willingness to work with NGOs, increase funding possibilities, and have an access route to work around governments, there might be some progress … but there’s going to be a lot of devil in those details. 

On institutional innovation and experimentation:
I for one was very surprised that the UN Security Council endorsed military action against Libya. This is big. I suspect the UNSC’s failure to act in Rwanda and the Congo, and to some extent Iraq, played a big role in their decision. That is institutional evolution in action. That makes me hopeful, because I think unified responses and moral authority matter. … On the other hand, if the world threatens and then backs down, or rewards the most thuggish leaders with coalition governments, we could move in the opposite direction.
The tricky thing: however they turn out, we’ll learn very little from the cases of Libya and Cote d’Ivoire. The effects and institutions will emerge over decades rather than years. So not only do we have low accountability, we have bad feedback.

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