Book Review: Poverty and Progress

I appreciated this book.  In my early 20s, I wanted to do development work in developing countries, but I ran into a problem.  All of the interventionist solutions didn’t work, and countries that ignored the advice of development economists tended to do better.  That has continued to be true since then.  Among academic economists, the battle goes on between the socialists and free marketers.  The battle goes on in many arenas:

  • It is easy to do cross-sectional time-series regressions across countries, and twist the data to your bias.  In general, more flexible the econometric technique, the lower the probability that it tells an accurate story.  Noise gets interpreted as signal. [The Ph. D.s at the Fed are experts at this.]
  • How much of poverty is due to culture, recalcitrant governments denying property rights to their people, etc?
  • How much different was it for the now developed nations to develop during their era?  Do the same principles apply?
  • Are there really “poverty traps” in development?
  • Are there structural problems in development that naturally occur, or does it stem from government interference?

This book takes an optimistic view on development, against the crowd that creates complex models in order to allege market imperfections, rather than government imperfections.  The truth is that poverty in the world is in retreat, and abject poverty may not exist in another generation, aside from nations that sabotage themselves.  Nations that are growing can follow the same path of freedom as the developed nations did.

This book will open your eyes on global poverty, and make you realize that we are close to success, aside from self-inflicted wounds.  It will also make you think through the metaphysics and ethics of global warming, and explain to you why it is unfair for the developed nations to constrain the developing nations regarding use of hydrocarbons.  [For those that are rabid bigots on global warming, this book argues that global cooling is happening.  Is your mind open enough to consider the argument?]

I recommend this book highly.  Well written, and not afraid to take some non-consensus views in favor of freedom.

Quibbles

None.

Who would benefit from this book: You have to be interested in development economics to enjoy this book.  If you want to, you can buy it here: Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty.

Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book for free.

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