Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Originally published on March 3, 2011
Is it possible to 'technocrat-ize' a revolution that is still roaring? The Arab Spring has been a spectacular surprise that so-called experts around the world failed to foresee, yet the same experts are now rushing to impose their favorite frameworks/paradigms on it. I call it the Explanation Olympics. There are experts who are tremendously certain the Arab Spring is all about social media. Others are quite sure it is all about the price of food. Still others say: it is the youth bulge, stupid. A New York Times columnist has just thrown a whole bunch of other explanations into the mix, some of them a trifle baffling. (See: 'This is just the start' by Tom Friedman).
Over and over again, and then again, and then some more, we get asked about evidence for the role of public opinion for development. Where's the impact? How do we know that the public really plays a role? What's the evidence, and is the effect size significant? Go turn on the television. Go open your newspaper. Go to any news website. Do tell me how we're supposed to put that in numbers.
Here's a thought: maybe the role of public opinion in development is just too big to be measured in those economic units that we mostly use in development? How do you squeeze history into a regression model? Let's have a little fun with this question. Let's assume that
y = b0 + b1x1 + b2x2 + b3x3 + b4x4 + b5x5 + b6x6 + b7x7 + b8(x1x4) + b9(x3x4) + e