The Principled Agent

Thoughts on development economics and impact measurement

Readings fit for a Kindle

with one comment

With my reading heavily slanted toward PDFs and away from books, I thought I’d share some of the papers/online books I found insightful. Some are new, some are old.

Lockhart’s Lament
Critique of how math is taught

Five Principles for the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences
“My framework for unification includes five conceptual units: (a) gene-culture coevolution; (b) the socio-psychological theory of norms; (c) game theory, (d) the rational actor model; and (e) complexity theory.”

Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics
“What fascinates Smith is the ineffable process by which an ecologically rational order emerges from the actions of myriad imperfectly informed and incompletely rational (in the constructivist sense) individuals. This process — a sort of economic transubstantiation — is the most fascinating economic mystery. [Organizations and Markets]”

Success of Development [currently unavailable on-line]- [On-line summary]
“This book explores the bad news and the good news about development. It lays out the evidence on growing income disparities between the global rich and the global poor that are at the heart of a narrative of crisis. And it chronicles the failed search for a silver bullet to overcome economic malaise.

But it also discusses the considerable successes of development. Not least, the evidence for any country being stuck in a Malthusian nightmare is threadbare. The book points to global progress in health, education, civil and political rights, access to infrastructure and even access to beer. This progress is historically  nprecedented and has been faster in the developing world than in the developed.”

The Evolution of Civilizations – An Introduction to Historical Analysis [BOOK]
“In this perceptive look at the factors behind the rise and fall of civilizations, Professor Quigley seeks to establish the analytical tools necessary for understanding history. He examines the applicationof scientific method to the social sciences, then establishes his historical hypotheses. He poses a division of culture into six levels, from the more abstract to the more concrete: intellectual, religious, social, political, economic, and military and he identifies seven stages of historical change for all civilizations: mixture, gestation, expansion, conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion. Quigley tests these hypotheses by a detailed analysis of five major civilizations: the Mesopotamian, the Canaanite, the Minoan, the classical, and the Western.”

Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility [BOOK]
“In this controversial book, CGD non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett examines the potentials and perils of greater cross-border mobility of unskilled labor — within poor world regions and between poor and rich countries.”

Beyond Planning: Markets and Networks for Better Aid
“The political economy of aid agencies is driven by incomplete information and multiple competing objectives and confounded by principal-agent and collective-action problems. Policies to improve aid rely too much on a planning paradigm that tries to ignore, rather than change, the political economy of aid. A considered combination of market mechanisms, networked collaboration, and collective regulation would be more likely to lead to significant improvements.”

Epilogue From Introduction to Modern Economic Growth
“Instead of summarizing the models and ideas presented so far, [Daron Acemoglu] end[s] with a brief discussion of what we have learned from the models in this book and how they offer a useful perspective on world growth and cross-country income differences.”

Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Addressing the Challenges of Global Poverty
“…report analyzing the actual behaviors, economics, and business models of successful “market-based solutions”–financially-sustainable enterprises that address challenges of global poverty.”

Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan
“This report notes that America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has focused more on waging war at the operational and tactical levels at the expense of the strategic and political levels.” Here Exum, a savvy COIN proponent, addresses the strategic questions.

“Firms in Africa report “regulatory and economic policy uncertainty” as a top constraint to their growth. We argue that often firms in Africa do not cope with policy rules, rather they face deals; firm-specific policy actions that can be influenced by firm actions (e.g. bribes) and characteristics (e.g. political connections).”

“We organize our discussion of these various research designs by how they secure internal validity: in this view, the RD design can been seen as a close “cousin” of the randomized experiment. An important distinction which emerges from our discussion of “heterogeneous treatment effects” is between ex post (descriptive) and ex ante (predictive) evaluations; these two types of evaluations have distinct, but complementary goals.

Theory, General Equilibrium and Political Economy in Development Economics
“I discuss the role of economic theory in empirical work in development economics with special emphasis on general equilibrium and political economy considerations. I argue that economic theory plays (should play) a central role in formulating models, estimates of which can be used for counterfactual and policy analysis. I discuss why counterfactual analysis based on microdata that ignores general equilibrium and political economy issues may lead to misleading conclusions.”

Designing impact evaluations: different perspectives
“…experts from different perspectives were asked how they would approach the evaluation of three interventions: a conditional cash transfer, an infrastructure project and an anti-corruption program. The motivation for the session was that debates get stuck when they remain at the conceptual level, but that a greater degree of consensus can be achieved once we move to the specifics of the design of a particular evaluation.”


Written by Chris Prottas

June 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Posted in General

One Response

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  1. I like what you wrote on Easterly’s blog. Spot on.

    Homira Nassery

    August 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

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