October 2009

100 indicators of well-being or just one? Stiglitz v Layard

admin - October 30, 2009

The OECD conference I’ve been attending is winding down. Lots of banquets, but not much booze, so I never had to try the hotel’s tempting room service item ‘outer leaves of cabbage broth to chase a hangover.’ What’s the takeaway (ideas rather than food)? The key debate seems to me to be over complexity. The various presentations described literally hundreds of different indicators already being …

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Joe Stiglitz addresses 'the movement' on well-being v GDP

admin - October 29, 2009

I’m still surrounded by the world’s statisticians (not as bad as it sounds) at the OECD Measuring the Progress of Societies conference in South Korea, where yesterday Joe Stiglitz gave a great presentation. Rather than simply rehearse the findings of his commission’s report to President Sarkozy, he reflected on why criticisms of GDP, which have been around for almost as long as GDP itself, have …

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How could we measure well-being in a crisis? Some thoughts from Korea

admin - October 28, 2009

I am currently in Korea’s second city, Busan, attending a big OECD conference on ‘statistics, knowledge and policy’, organized by its ‘Measuring the Progress of Societies’ project. The massive conference centre looks out on a consumerist paradise, including a giant Tesco’s supermarket (everything’s big here, giving you that sense of suddenly having shrunk that you get in Tiananmen square) and what declares itself to be …

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Charter Cities – visionary, naive or bonkers?

admin - October 27, 2009

Charter Cities are a proposal to build cities from scratch in the world’s poorest nations, outsourcing their design and government to rich countries. Visionary, naïve or plain bonkers? Probably a bit of all three. They are the brainchild of US economist Paul Romer, who explains his idea on this (20 minute) video. He’s serious – last year he gave up his professorship at Stanford to …

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Rodrik on protectionism; Tories and climate change; my son's a blogger; medicine v aid; regulating the banks; good news on HIV and piano stairs: links I liked

admin - October 26, 2009

Dani Rodrik, who has tragically abandoned his blog due to a combination of work pressures and spammers, takes aim at groupthink on protectionism and the crisis. See what a blogging subset of Tories think about David Cameron’s recent speech on climate change. Looks like he’s got his work cut out. Proud father time – son Finlay came with me to Bangladesh recently and wrote this …

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Forget Cannes – check out the Golden Poo Awards, 2009

admin - October 23, 2009

OK, so Global Handwashing Day on 15 October may have passed you by, but take a minute (well, 3 minutes) to watch these two winning entries (less than two minutes each) for the accompanying Golden Poo awards.   Behind the humour is a very serious purpose of course. Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, …

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25 years after the Ethiopian famine, what have we learned?

admin - October 22, 2009

It’s 25 years since the Ethiopian famine and the region is again being flayed by drought. Expect lots of media coverage, at least some of it along the lines of ’why did we bother? Nothing’s changed.’ Not so. Band Aids and Beyond, an Oxfam briefing paper published today, summarizes what’s been learned since then and asks why donors and governments haven’t acted on that knowledge. …

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Water, land, air, life: what is a safe environmental operating space for humanity?

admin - October 21, 2009

Sorry guys, sorting out climate change is just the start. Their success in influencing climate change policy (if not practice) seems to have emboldened earth system scientists to initiate a wider debate about the earth’s limits. A recent issue of Nature journal tries to establish the ecological ‘operating space’ for humans, and could spark off some pretty interesting debates over the coming months. ‘We have …

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Migration and development: how to improve on a feeble new Human Development Report

admin - October 20, 2009

The Human Development Report, published by UNDP, is traditionally the best of the UN annual tomes. This year’s HDR, entitled Overcoming Barriers, discusses migration. It’s a critical issue in development – moving in search of work and a better life has always been a strategy for people living in poverty as most modern-day Americans and Australians can testify (not including indigenous inhabitants, and we deported some of …

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Identity and AK47s; bloody flags; fossil fuel subsidies; AidWatch v Sachs (again); CO2 is good for you and a good nobel prize (not that one): links I liked

admin - October 19, 2009

‘“Give us our identity cards and we hand over our Kalashnikovs”, said the leader of the rebel forces in Côte d’Ivoire’, Bronwen Manby discusses the battle for citizenship in Africa. Here’s the flag of the Benin Empire, a pre-colonial African state situated in modern Nigeria that lasted from 1440 until 1897.  Any nominations for which of today’s governments should adopt it? [h/t Chris Blattman] The …

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