Round-up of the week

Here are a couple of interesting links on a variety of topics that you could/ should check out:

  • Some concise answers to the impossible questions of development and aid, such as “is it realistic to expect that poverty can one day end”, “what are the best global solutions” and “is there hope for the future” from Owen Barder and Christopher Blattman. Ties in well with what we have discussed in our classes so far – from theory to ethics to financing.
  • Speaking of poverty and distributive justice, here are “300 years of global writing about poverty in one graph“. If you dare to go further, it also links to a very interesting paper that uses Google’s new n-gram viewer (which lets you count frequency of words in a huge number of books from 1800 onwards) and some wide-ranging literature to see how ideas about the reasons for and the acceptability of poverty, destitution, inequality etc. have evolved over time in the English- and French-speaking world.
  • If you ever feel overcome by aid pessimism and/ or want to read highly technical statistical papers, here is an article arguing that some aid works in some circumstances – in this case that democracy aid reduces the risk of conflict in newly democratizing states. It will probably not be the last word on the topic, but it is a good reminder that arguments like “aid never works” are deeply flawed.
  • And there is a variety of articles related to this week’s topic: one arguing that fertilizer subsidies (a no-no under free-market/ neoliberal ideologies) have been a success in Malawi and that some donor’s reluctance or outright opposition to them disregards both country ownership and sound policy advice; two articles from the Guardian decrying that the Washington Consensus is not dead in practice and arguing that state marketing boards for cocoa (again no-no under Washington Consensus-type approaches) are not all bad all the time, based on the examples of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire; and two articles on industrial policy and the “Post-Washington Consensus”, one summarizing a UNCTAD publication and one from the World Bank itself trying to explain how new ideas about industrial policy are working their way through the Bank.
  • And finally, this week’s Terminological Warning!: Many people working in aid (including me), tend to use the terms “Washington Consensus”, “neoliberalism”, and “free market ideology” interchangeably. You might have noticed that at least one of today’s authors is not very happy with that. Like so many terms in the aid and in the policy world more in general, none of expressions has a single, clear, unambiguous and uncontested meaning. Rather, they represent a core of ideas onto which everybody projects their own image and interpretation of what they support or oppose. This blog entry on the meaning of “neoliberal” is a good illustration of this.
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