African population density to surpass Europe’s next year (graph)

A graph from Ryan Briggs (using UN data found here). HT: Aid Thoughts

Population Density tumblr_kps850PrZK1qz80k2o1_r1_400

Briggs also posts this wonderful heat map of population density in Africa that he got from Lee at Roving Bandit (probably the best economics blog in Southern Sudan).

Africa Population Density 2000 heat map

Click the picture to see maps from other decades going back to 1960.

Briggs says, “Charles Kenny has a good  explanation of the African population explosion and how it could happen without large amounts of economic growth.” Kenny summarizes his upcoming book on The Success of Development.

Outline:

  1. Introduction: Abandon Hope?
  2. The Bad News: Diverging Incomes
  3. The Worse News: It’s Hard To Raise Growth Rates
  4. The Good News: The End Of The Malthusian Trap
  5. The Better News: The Great Convergence In Quality Of Life
  6. The Great News: The Best Things In Life Are Cheap
  7. Drivers Of The Better Life: Innovation, Ideas And Institutions
  8. Policies For The Quality Of Life
  9. The Global Agenda
  10. Conclusion: Realistic Optimism

…and concludes:

Realistic optimism is the right attitude with which to face the issue of development. This is based on a recognition of the challenges still facing the world –significant progress to be made, limits to the likely speed of that progress, and concerns with sustainability. But we should also acknowledge that the rapid and unprecedented improvement in global quality of life over the past fifty years provides some significant grounds for hope about the future. Understanding the causes of this success, and building on existing progress, is a vital part of ensuring that it is sustained.

American hypocrisy, exploitation, and the future of African economic thought (Stiglitz and Texas in Africa)

For the lay person like myself—someone who has never taken a course in economics, Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz provides a great metanarrative of the past and future of global economic thought in light of the recent crisis: Wall Street’s Toxic Message (Vanity Fair). (BTW, this was my introduction to Stiglitz, so don’t feel bad if his name doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe I should feel bad ;-). Before getting to Stiglitz, I need to quote Texas in Africaobama goes to ghana (where I originally got the Stiglitz link):

third-world-debt-0907-01

…a dispassionate analysis makes it virtually indisputable to claim that Western policies hurt African economies. [Obama’s] speech earlier this week came at the summit of the G-8, an organization whose trade policies have done far more to hurt African economies than to help them. Through the G-8, the WTO, and the Bretton Woods institutions, the United States and other Western countries engage in horribly unfair trade practices against most African states. My government’s subsidies to American farmers makes it virtually impossible for African farmers to compete in American markets; the insistence by World Bank that African states not subsidize domestic industry is a double standard of the worst kind… What’s more, African states often have no say in the economic policies they are forced to adapt …Economic neo-colonialism is alive and well…

…watching the U.S. refuse to use the same sorts of measures it forces on other countries during their economic crises on itself may push some of those elites towards other economic systems that will lead to human suffering. Obama would do a much greater service to the continent’s people by acknowledging how deeply unfair my country’s trade practices are and by committing to moving toward negotiations that treat African states not as children to be disciplined, but as mature countries with educated elites who know how to run an economy.

[I (Ben) think that politics in the US would probably make this a form of political suicide for Obama—business interests (legalized corruption), and politics in Africa (more traditional corruption) keeps African economists from being able to shape their own economies.]

[Back to Texas] Obama claimed in his speech earlier this week that he probably knows more about Africa than any previous president. That’s true, but it’s also not saying much. American policy makers have a long tradition of almost willful ignorance about what really happens on the continent and how the U.S. should – or should not – be involved there. I am not hopeful about this administration’s policies towards the continent; sending weapons to Somalia and suggesting that noticing the effects of neo-colonial and paternalistic policies amounts to excuse-making suggests that Obama is headed in the same direction as his predecessors.

Bill Easterly grades Obama’s speech; Chris Blattman grades and then collects other graders of Obama’s speech:  Michael Kevane, Mark Goldberg (part II), Elizabeth Dickenson, Sean Jacobs, and Gregg Zachary

Now to Stiglitz Wall Street’s Toxic Message

…no crisis, especially one of this severity, recedes without leaving a legacy. And among this one’s legacies will be a worldwide battle over ideas—over what kind of economic system is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to the most people. Nowhere is that battle raging more hotly than in the Third World, among the 80 percent of the world’s population that lives in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, 1.4 billion of whom subsist on less than $1.25 a day…The fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, marked the end of Communism as a viable idea…

…In truth, historians will mark the 20 years since 1989 as the short period of American triumphalism. With the collapse of great banks and financial houses, and the ensuing economic turmoil and chaotic attempts at rescue, that period is over. So, too, is the debate over “market fundamentalism,” the notion that unfettered markets, all by themselves, can ensure economic prosperity and growth. Today only the deluded would argue that markets are self-correcting or that we can rely on the self-interested behavior of market participants to guarantee that everything works honestly and properly…

…The World Bank and the I.M.F. said they were doing all this for the benefit of the developing world…Not surprisingly, people in developing countries became less and less convinced that Western help was motivated by altruism. They suspected that the free-market rhetoric—“the Washington consensus,” as it is known in shorthand—was just a cover for the old commercial interests. Suspicions were reinforced by

Continue reading

Links of the Day: Blogging, translation and the world

NT Wright – “God in Public: Reflections on Faith and Society” Speech at the London School of Economics 14 Feb 2008.

Lingamish (a bible translator in Mozambique) updates his “about” page and lists his 20 most popular posts from the previous year. What are people looking for in a blog? Wacky, humorous and a touch of irreverence. What we all really want is a touch of the tabloids from someone who seems a little bit like us, or maybe a little smarter and more righteous. He is a bible translator in Africa after all. His list says it all and is worth at least a quick look.

John Hobbins discusses bible translation – responding to Karen Jobe’s article . “Faithful translation is about taking risks, not avoiding them . . .

The Bible, I’ve noticed, is a resolutely non-superficial text. A faithful translation of it will be taxing on a contemporary reader in ways it was not for its original readers. It is a classic case of “no pain, no gain.”

Jobes’s full paper is here.

I always like to say, “It’s easy to get the main messages of the Bible. It’s a lot harder when you get to the the details.”

[There is something here for everyone, but unless you are in the bible translation world, there are some insider terms and acronyms. Feel free to list acronym or term you want some explanation for in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.]

On a separate note, a new English translation of the LXX (Greek OT) is available free on-line.

Chris Tilling reviews what looks like an interesting book by Tom Sine of “Mustard Seed Conspiracy” fame – The New Conspirators.

A new paradigm in development economics

Until very recently, if you spent anytime thinking about development policy, the chances are that you fell into one of three groups. One group believes the problem with developing countries is lack of resources. So the solution is a vast increase in foreign aid. A second group believes the real problem is lack of incentives. So the solution is more and better markets. The third group thinks the problem is lousy governments, so the answer lies with improved governance. . .

But there is something new afoot. Increasingly, some people are saying the right way to approach development policy is to start with the view that we actually don’t know where the problems lie, to acknowledge that the key problems may differ from setting to setting, and to adopt an explicitly experimental attitude to policy selection and formulation so that you can learn about the environment in which you operate. In this approach, monitoring and evaluation are key, as you want to pull back from mistakes and improve policies over time. Indeed, you build the monitoring into the policy process itself so that learning becomes part and parcel of it–rather than something you leave to your researchers or economists. This way of thinking about development policy is radically different from the three schools I summarized above, as it admits much greater diversity and heterodoxy. It is humble about the extent of our knowledge but optimistic about our ability to learn.

Thanks again to Michael Kruse who has great posts almost every day.