If the thought of summer conjures up visions of national parks, you’re not alone – in 2014, nearly 3 million tourists visited forests, mountains, trails, and rivers at U.S. national parks.
If you crossed the gate into one of these treasures, you probably didn’t care whether that particular forest or mountain fell under government or private ownership. But it’s worth noting, because national park concessions fill a vital role helping the National Park Service carry out its mission, and there are benefits to these partnerships that can keep the parks viable — and the visitors happy — for decades to come.
There are also misconceptions about national park PPPs. To clear the air, I’ve answered some of the most common questions below.
Ricardo Fuentes has been raving about this book for months, so I packed it in my holiday luggage. Actually it’s two books – The Origins of Political Order takes us from pre-history up to the French Revolution/American Revolution, and the subsequent Political Order and Political Decay brings us up to the present day. They each weigh in at around 500 pages, so hope you won’t mind me taking two posts to review them.
Fukuyama is notorious for his ‘End of History?’ post-Cold War triumphalism, but he’s older, wiser and considerably more nuanced these days. The ambition of the two books is astonishing – nothing less than a history of the birth, evolution and current condition of the state worldwide, with fascinating potted histories of the states both obvious (China, England, Germany, US) and less so (Hungary, Poland, Nigeria).
The starting point is that ‘Poor countries are poor not because they lack resources, but because they lack effective political institutions. It asks (and tries to answer) wonderfully big hairy questions like:
- why are some countries (eg Melanesia, parts of Middle East) still tribally organized?
- why is China historically centralized, while India isn’t?
- why is East Asia so special in its path of authoritarian modernization?
- what explains the contrasting fortunes of the US and Latin America?
Fukuyama’s big idea is that political order is based on three pillars: effective centralized states, the rule of law, and accountability mechanisms such as democracy and parliaments. ‘The miracle of modern politics’ is achieving a balance between them, which is difficult both to achieve and then to maintain, with many states having one disproportionately stronger than the others, while others achieve it, and then lose it. Its achievement is often accidental, rather than deliberate. Analysing each state’s unique combination of the three pillars helps us understand the strengths, weaknesses and historical trajectories of different countries and empires.
Over the last several weeks, tens of thousands of words have been published about a study on the benefits of deworming for Kenyan schoolchildren, about the benefits of deworming more generally, about replication in science and social science, and about the evidence base for development programs. More will surely be written. As you’ll see below, several blog posts seek to make sense of the hubbub.
Here are some things that caught our attention last week:
If you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for algorithm visualization. These sorting algorithm animations and Mike Bostock’s visualizations of sampling, shuffling, sorting and maze generation are among my favorites. So I was delighted to find R2D3’s Visual Introduction to Machine Learning.
Dat is like Git for data - a “version-controlled, decentralized data tool for collaboration between data people and data systems.” It’s a much-needed tool and the development team just announced that it’s hit beta status - do check it out.
When I started working in the Middle East and North Africa region two years ago, the surprising thing I discovered is that although the region is known as an energy powerhouse – it produces 30% of the world's oil, has 41% of the known gas reserves, and hydrocarbons are its most important export - the countries in the region barely meet domestic demand for electricity, partly due to a chronic shortage of gas.
Breaking the ‘taboo’?
Following the seminal work by Kydland and Prescott (1977) and the vast literature that ensued,  central bank independence has become an established, rock solid truth in the theory and practice of monetary policy. A concrete case about the negative consequences of less-than-full central bank independence was recently discussed by Wyplosz (2015), with specific reference to the ECB. However, no discussion has taken place in a long time within academic and policy circles about cases where central bank independence might be called into question, not even after the deep reconsideration of optimal macroeconomic policy prompted by the global crisis.
In fact, the crisis has offered an important opportunity to discuss if and under what circumstances, and rules, central bank independence might be temporarily revoked or suspended, so that the central bank and government would coordinate their action for the purpose of achieving some specific priority macroeconomic objective. Regrettably, this debate has not happened thus far. In summarizing the conclusions of last April’s IMF conference on ‘Rethinking Macro Policy’, Blanchard (2015) noted that there was general consensus among participants “that central banks should retain full independence with respect to traditional monetary policy”.
- Financial Sector
On July 24th Nigeria celebrated a huge milestone in the global effort to eradicate polio. It has been one year since the country has had a case of wild polio. This means that it has interrupted transmission of the crippling disease.
Kazakh scientists navigate this winding, unpredictable road for years and generally come to the realization that great scientific research is not enough in itself. Too often, they face a lack of support when it comes to applying the results of their scientific research in a useful, practical way.
Fortunately, a team of Kazakh scientists at the Private Entity Institute of Polymer Materials and Technology in Almaty has had a somewhat more positive experience. This team has been working on a truly innovative project: developing a solution to improving the recovery of oil from old oil wells in Kazakhstan.
But why, you might ask?
However, a recent resolution by the World Health Organization's (WHO) governing body shows that this narrative is beginning to change.
"Another word for 'profession' is 'ghetto'. People who work in the same field develop their own codes and slang. They sleep and socialise with each other. Without intending to, they seal off their world from uncomprehending outsiders."
- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor