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Good News

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to the blog post, Time to Learn How to Act 'Macro' while Talking 'Micro':

'Happily, we have an active international economic forum on economics that is micro and macro. It is called the marketplace. In it, billions of people communicate every day in billions of transctions where they vote with their nyra or dollars or yen. In what nobel laureate F.A. Hayek called spontaneous order, this establishes priorities and values based on supply and demand. A billion people cannot be bested by a handful of even the smartest planners.

Schooled in macro, planners learn in university to tweak their computer models to get the right outcome, when in the real world they are far less capable of tweaking the incentives to manipulate the decisions of multitudes. Increasing savings rates, to take a very crude example, is easier to do on a computer than across a nation or a planet. So the market tends to outguess and outperform planners.

Think Accountability

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As follow-up to CommGAP's workshop "Generating Genuine Demand for Social Accountability Mechanisms" we're working on publishing an edited volume on this issue with Berkeley-Professor Taeku Lee. Looking through the chapters for this book I puzzled over a quite original approach to accountability: information processing. Arthur Lupia, one of our authors and Professor at the University of Michigan, takes a cognitive approach and explains how people's beliefs have to be changed in order to make them demand accountability.

Balancing Act

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to the blog post Balancing Results-Based Management with People-based Processes:

"I fully agree that the focus on results should not be so obsessive as to lose the enduring value of Communication for Development (C4D), namely its ability to facilitate and promote engagement between real people and communities, as a process. The World Bank's Development Communication team has been quite successful in selling this to the Bank mandarins, but on the basis of communication’s ability to help deliver concrete results, not on the basis of communication as a process. The array of tools and innovations your team has developed (communication-based assessment, etc) and the concrete proposals it has made towards integrating communication into the Bank’s operations provide others with a strong basis for making the case in their respective agencies.

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

'There can be no public without full publicity in respect to all consequences which concern it.  Whatever obstructs and restricts publicity, limits and distorts public opinion and checks and distorts thinking on social affairs.  Without freedom of expression, not even methods of social inquiry can be developed.  For tools can be evolved and perfected only in operation; in application to observing, reporting and

If Force and Incentives Fail...Then What?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As one observes the practice of policy in many contexts - including policy responses to the current global financial crisis - it is amazing to see how many expert advisers still see policy making and policy execution as a matter of command or the crude manipulation of incentives. Force relies on the coercive powers of the state: if you want citizens or groups of them to do something simply insist on compliance, and deploy the full apparatus of state power. Failing that, you manipulate incentives, especially financial incentives and citizens will fall in line. Expert systems are comfortable with either approach because each is something they understand and can easily deploy. And, to be fair, you can make and introduce policies by using force or manipulating incentives. Then you wait and see how far those approaches take you. But there is one big lesson coming out of policy studies: force and the manipulation of incentives can only take you so far.

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

’Nothing appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as FORCE is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.The soldan of EGYPT, or the emperor of ROME, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination. But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes, or praetorian bands, like men, by their opinion.’

David Hume, Of the First Principles of Government, 1741

Time to Learn How to Act 'Macro' while Talking 'Micro'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the major features of public discussion around the current global financial crisis is that the language of macro-economics is dominant. Different theories of macro-economics are being used to shape policy prescriptions, and these prescriptions are being shouted at policy makers. I suppose policy makers have to take Macro-economics 101 in order to be effective in their roles. Which is fine.

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

'If it be true that all governments rest on opinion, it is no less true that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion. The reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the number with which it is associated. When the examples which fortify opinion are ancient as well as numerous, they are known to have a double effect. In a nation of philosophers, this consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side.'

James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No 49.

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