Monday miscellany

  • If you’re in DC this Wednesday, Charles Kenny is giving a talk to launch his new book, The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest Is Good for the WestCharles’ previous book (Getting Better) was a good read and he’s been churning out interesting journalism since (sample here). You might describe the general theme of Charles’ writing as “not everything is all that terrible,” which is remarkable because so much of the writing — at least the smart writing — on international development could be summarized as “really, everything is quite terrible.”
  • Newspapers are biased (study) towards covering medical articles that aren’t as good. (Via the always interesting Justin Wolfers.) Another way of reading this is that the higher quality papers are typically RCTs, but many of the questions that are most interesting to the lay public can only be answered with large observational studies. Those studies are more likely to give answers that won’t hold up to further study, and more likely to be dreadfully overhyped by their authors and by journalists.
  • Angus Deaton reviews Nina Munk’s book on Jeff Sachs. Sachs is not impressed. Two thoughts: 1) I love that Deaton connects it to the Anti-Politics Machine, which is one of the best books on development and what I kept thinking of on reading The Idealist. 2) A three-way conversation between Sachs, Deaton, and Michael Clemens would be fascinating, in part because Deaton and Clemens are both Sachs critics, but differ strongly on RCTs — Clemens has written about how the Millennium Villages could be evaluated with them, and Deaton wouldn’t be impressed even if they were.
  • Elizabeth Pisani (author of the Wisdom of Whores) has a new book soon on Indonesia.
  • Some humor: What if meetings were all like conference calls, and The Onion describes the new American Dream.
  • Bill Gates shared this graph on Twitter, showing how the distribution of log GDP per capita has changed from a bimodal “camel” distribution to a single dome today. (It might be even more informative to look at the same numbers with and without China, which accounts for much of the departure from absolute poverty):

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