The production process for many economics papers requires relatively few inputs: one or two researchers, their computers, a research assistant, and some data someone else has collected. Indeed Bob Hall notes that Robert Solow once remarked that the most powerful tool for research was one economics professor with one research assistant.
Bill Easterly’s new book “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor” is a meandering mélange of anecdotes, parts of Why Nations Fail, and miscellaneous pages from human rights reports, sprinkled with history of economic thought, non sequiturs about one block in New York, finally mixed with some sharper critiques of Thomas Friedman and discussion of the difficulties of measuring the relationship between autocracy and growth.
I returned last week from the 2014 Pacific Conference for Development Economics, with 80 presentations over the course of a very full day. These conferences are a great way to see what research is coming down the line across a whole array of topics (see below the word cloud generated from the presentation titles).
My latest working paper (joint with Sarojini Hirschleifer, Rita Almeida and Cristobal Ridao-Cano) presents results from an impact evaluation of a large-scale vocational training program for the unemployed in Turkey. I thought I’d briefly summarize the study, and then discuss a few aspects that may be of more general interest.