Friday, June 18, 2010

Easterly on Development

I like this summary of Easterly's thoughts about development.

DRI and the John Templeton Foundation from DRI on Vimeo.

I think an important point here is that there are (at least) two perspectives on development. One is that development is about going from being poor to being rich and you achieve this with economic growth. I think this is what he has in mind and why he talks about entrepreneurs, technology, decentralization, and spontaneous development. The U.S. and Europe grew because of technology and free markets. But growth isn't good on it's own--the hope is that it leads to people buying better health outcomes and happiness.

Another view is that development is mostly about getting people the basics. Thousands of kids die every day because of preventable disease and the goal is to prevent those deaths and pick other low hanging fruit. When we look at the history of health in the U.S. and Europe we see most of the gains came recently from improved diets, vaccines, clean water and improved sanitation. From this perspective development is about getting everyone anti-malaria nets, vaccinations, access to clean water, and three meals a day. In the U.S. we ensure all these things (largely) through free public provision (food stamps, public health clinics, infrastructure the government has a heavy hand) so it's reasonable to think we can "do development" by having governments do it with a pot of say $50 billion from rich donors.

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