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January 2010

How Can Economists Change the World?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Economists dominate international development, and, in the case of the World Bank, well, that is an instance of full spectrum dominance. In an article in Public Choice (2010) 142:1-8, titled 'Persuasion, slack, and traps: how can economists change the world?', Bryan Caplan has some bad news as well as some good news.

The bad news is a restatement of the argument of his The Myth of the Rational Voter (Caplan 2007): "I argue that economically inefficient policies survive by popular demand. The public systematically misunderstands economics - and probably many other policy relevant subjects - leading voters to support policies contrary to their best interests. I also  maintain that the public's misconceptions are, in a sense, wilful. Most people embrace political and economic beliefs on the basis of their emotional appeal, not dispassionate analysis."

 

eProcurement: At the Beginning of Every Major Change, There's a Little Website

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As you can see from many of our blog posts, we're somewhat struggling with getting a good grip on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and their role for governance and accountability. We're also somewhat split along the lines of enthusiasm and scepticism with regard to the possibilities of using ICTs to straighten out a distorted public sphere and further development. This morning I learned about eProcurement, a very particular application of ICT in the context of government accountability, that seems to me a good argument in favor of us technology enthusiasts.

Filling Another Need for Haiti - Information

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

As the Bank and others prepare their response plans for Haiti, it is worthwhile taking a moment to stress the importance of media and communication in the aftermath of the disaster, as well as in the more long-term post-crisis reconstruction period.
 

In both post-conflict and natural disaster situations, donors focus on filling people’s basic needs: shelter, sustenance, medical care. But there is another basic need that people have in emergencies: information. People need to find out if their loved ones are safe, and if so, how they can communicate with them. They need to find out where they can access basic services. They need to find out if it is safe to go back to their homes, and if not, where they can stay. And in the longer term, they need to reconnect with others in society, to come together to rebuild a nation.
 

Mastering the Conditions of Change

Antonio Lambino's picture

On a recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau, China’s two Special Administrative Regions (SARs), I was reminded repeatedly of people's tendency to search for heroes to make things better in public life.  The two SARs are engines of growth in the region -- the former due primarily to international trade and finance and the latter due to tourism and gambling -- and have highly developed infrastructure and efficient transportation services.  I was traveling with a large group of fellow Filipinos, all of us from a country struggling to improve governance in various sectors and the provision of public services.  Walking the streets of Hong Kong and Macau, many comments were made regarding the ease of public transport and modern facilities, from sidewalks and roads to air and sea ports.  Almost all of these conversations led to two persistent questions: “When will our own country catch up?” and “Who will stamp out corruption and lead the country to prosperity?”  I couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t much discussion about how.

Will Public Opinion Kill Health Care Reform in the US?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Will public opinion kill health care reform in the US? Naturally, I don't know the answer to that question. What is interesting is how a reform process that appeared close to conclusion can wobble mightily upon the apparent signaling of public displeasure. If reinforces once again the centrality of politics - and of public opinion- to processes of reform. What matters now, as the leaders of US government grapple with how to conclude or abandon the reform effort, is to reflect on some of the lessons coming out of the process at this point that might be applicable to reform processes generally. The following seem fairly clear:

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Liberal democracy offers religious believers a bargain. Accept, as a price of citizenship, that you may never impose your convictions on your neighbor, or use state power to compel belief. In return, you will be free to practice your own faith as you see fit — and free, as well, to compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas."

-- Ross Douthat, Let’s Talk About Faith, New York Times, January 10, 2010

 

Media Effects II: Priming

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In my last blog post, I introduced agenda setting as a fundamental media effect: The media sets the public and the political agenda by bringing issues to the attention of the audience and of policy makers. Agenda setting has a little brother, priming, sometimes called second order agenda setting. Priming effects of communication are important for decision making, for example which candidate to vote for in an upcoming election.

What Makes Regular Folk Become Anti-Corruption Advocates?

Fumiko Nagano's picture

CommGAP believes that social norms transformation is key to fighting petty corruption; we believe that one of the biggest impediments to anti-corruption efforts from the perspective of ordinary citizens is when corruption and bribery become so institutionalized in society that people view corruption as the fixed and incontestable norm. To break down such a system, the public’s ignorance of their rights, cynicism, fear of reprisal and mentality of submission to the status quo must first be defeated. Perhaps most importantly, the efficacy challenge needs to be addressed—people need to believe that they can actually do something about corruption so that they can act on that belief.

Media Without Borders

Caroline Jaine's picture

We are unstoppable when it comes to communicating.  “Communicate” means “to share” and it comes as second nature (it’s socially addictive in fact).  The 300 million of us blogging can rarely be silenced.  A comment on a Minister’s blog can provoke a policy change.   A micro-blog can influence a legal challenge (the Trafigura/Carter Ruck affair) or inspire masses (the Iranian elections were the top news story on Twitter last year).  And a social network group like Facebook can undermine an X-Factor winner’s success (a winner ironically chosen by “the people” by telephone vote).  It is the public, not governments that are beginning to drive change. But whether we like it or not it’s still mainstream media that is being listened to most – TV, radio and most powerful of all – the old fashioned newspaper read out loud.  It’s more coherent, more organised, and usually better written than the complex voice of the masses.  Big media still counts.  
 

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"The public is organized and made effective by means of representatives who as guardians of custom, as legislators, as executives, judges, etc., care for its special interests by methods intended to regulate the conjoint actions of individuals and groups. Then and in so far as, association adds to itself political organization, and something which may be government comes into being: the public is a political state."

 

John Dewey 
The Public and its Problems (1927)

Introducing our Technical Briefs

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As many readers will know, CommGAP has developed a couple of training courses. We now run these courses in partnership with the World Bank Institute. A few years ago, we began to commission technical briefs on various aspects of communication and governance for use in the training courses. They are quick, hopefully accessible introductions to various key topics in communication, especially political communication. Each brief was written by an expert in the field although we have not attached the names of the writers, these being our corporate products. We have decided to share these briefs more broadly. Please feel free use them as appropriate. We would appreciate comments on them as well.

Speech and “Harmony” in China: An Experiment

Tom Jacobson's picture

In his book “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a new Global Order,” Martin Jacques argues that China is not only ascendant economically. It is also on a path to marginalize the West and change global conceptions of what is modernity. Does this include modern communication?

In mid-December I visited Wuhan, China, in Hubei Province where Wuhan University’s School of Journalism and Mass Media held a conference on Intercultural Communication and Journalism Ethics, attended by perhaps one hundred scholars mostly from China or greater China. I made a presentation there on the relevance of Habermas’s treatment of modernity for the analysis of Chinese culture. And then traveled to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, to deliver a lecture on comparative forms of political legitimacy and the role of communication in relation to each, at the Department of Literature and Journalism in Sichuan University.

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"The material for opinion research - all sorts of opinions held by all sorts of population groups - is not already constituted as public opinion simply by becoming the object of politically relevant considerations, decisions, and measures. The feedback of group opinions...cannot close the gap between public opinion as a fiction of constitutional law and the social-psychological decomposition of its concept. A concept of public opinion that is historically meaningful, that normatively meets the requirements of the constitution of a social-welfare state, and that is theoretically clear and empirically identifiable can be grounded only in the structural transformation of the public sphere itself and in the dimensions of its development."
 

-- Jürgen Habermas (1969, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, p. 244)

Half Mast or Half Full?: The News Media in the New Decade

Antonio Lambino's picture

The Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School recently hosted an event entitled "How to Make Money in News: New Business Models for the 21st Century".  This reminded me of a Washington Post editorial by Michael Gerson contrastingly titled “Journalism’s slow, sad death”.  I came across the editorial a while back and decided to hold on to my copy, intending to reflect on some of Gerson’s points.  Chancing upon the Shorenstein Center event provided me with just the opportunity.

As I reread Gerson’s piece, the following point jumped out at me: “… the whole (news and information) system is based on a kind of intellectual theft.  Internet aggregators (who link to the news they don’t produce) and bloggers would have little time to collect or comment upon without the costly enterprise of newsgathering and investigative reporting.  The old-media dinosaurs remain the basis for the entire media food chain.  But newspapers are expected to provide their content free on the Internet.”