Skipping all the usual jokes, I’m just going straight into a rant here: when we turn our politics into a series of vitriolic attacks on those who don’t share our views, demonise and dehumanise those who don’t share our language or (proximate) origins, and treat dissent and political discourse as a battleground rather than an exchange of ideas and evidence (not stats, not numbers, not claims, but evidence), then we’ll always run the risk of winding up where we did yesterday. I’ve been guilty of this before, and only a couple of days ago got a (fully deserved) dressing down from a colleague for talking down about people who don’t share a particular political view I hold – I hope I take that to heart. There have been various lovely tributes to Jo Cox, including a number on my Facebook feed, as she was known and loved by many people who worked in DFID and development. I particularly like this one from Andrew Mitchell. It’s all very distressing. And disappointing.
1. Staying on UK affairs for a moment, here’s Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight on what Brexit could mean for the economy. It’s balanced and accounts for the views of both sides of the debate. The spread betting on the outcome of the referendum remains razor thin so if you have views on this, get out and vote next week, come rain or shine. If you think it won’t affect you – read more about it. It will, so be as well informed as you can be.
2. Dan Honig at John Hopkins sent an e-mail to Matt Collin (CGD) and I last week, about the relative merits of evaluating development projects using ex ante, pre-determined criteria vs. using an observational approach that decides what to consider after the fact, setting off a geeky, ranty back-forth-and-back-again between the three of us, which Matt then published. While the discussion of economic evaluation is riveting (of course it is, given how handsome and brilliant the three protagonists are), the most notable point made in the discussion is when I turn my prognosticative skills to the basketball, and declare “[the] Cavs might still push it to 6, and if they do, Lebron is perfectly capable of turning in two monster performances in a row”. Here’s the first of the two – Sunday night, we’ll find out if the second materialises…
3. David Evans was at DFID earlier this week giving a brilliant presentation on one of his recent projects, looking at management capacity and quality of healthcare in rural Nigeria. Earlier in the week he attended the Annual Bank Conference on Africa in Oxford, which had an urbanisation theme, and together with Markus Goldstein (who also organised a great presentation here a few months ago) wrote a summary of every paper presented there. Strongly encouraged for all economists, particularly those working on economic transformation. Some of this research is fantastic, and providing new insights into how cities can impel or impede development.
4. I’m in Paris at the moment (mangling the language in my interactions with the locals) and have been at the OECD today, presenting on the need for a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to thinking about development and migration. I don’t think I would have gotten away with Chris Blattman’s latest blog…
5. I really liked this: Owen Barder and Matt Juden dig in to the old chestnut that middle-income countries get more aid than low income countries, and find (like the t-shirt I keep wishing existed says): ‘it’s a little bit more complicated than that’. In fact, by most intuitively reasonable measures, the opposite is true.
6. I am writing this e-mail with my feet planted on the table, leaning back in my chair, having been told that this is a ‘power pose’, albeit one that makes it very difficult to type. Tim Harford gives the idea a shoeing, while making a broader point about the reproducibility crisis in the social sciences, ending with a rule of thumb by Andrew Gelman, which is always a good idea. Somewhat related: David McKenzie points out that, numerically at least, RCTs really haven’t taken over development research.
7. And finally, because I started the e-mail on a sombre note, let’s end it more upbeat: here is a statistical analysis of every movie The Rock has made, noting his inexorable rise and increasing awesomeness. “[He] manages to say the line ‘F**king centaurs,’ and you buy it. Do you realize how hard it is to sell the line ‘F**king centaurs’?”
Passez un bon weekend, tout le monde!