Categories
Base of the Pyramid (BOP) Market Book Review Decision making Emerging Markets International Development Micro-Finance Non-Fiction Psychology

Book review: “Poor Economics”

“Poor Economics” is a pertinent reminder that our assumptions and preconceived perceptions are often wrong and frequently create unintended and undesirable consequences*.  However, “Poor Economics” is not a nagging, accusatory reminder, it is a pleading reminder, a reminder that seeks cooperation and cohesion within the development field. It is also a reminder backed by random sampling and behavioral economics – the two biggest introductions to financial academia since regression analysis.

If you read the same books I do (Or Liesbeth Geerligs honours thesis!), than you will know a good story will actually be more persuasive then a set of statistics**. Thankfully Abhjit Banerjee and Esther Duflo know that, and they have peppered “Poor Economics” with examples and anecdotes to help communicate their message, their reminder.  Here is hoping that the reminder is heard and the small arsenal of positive examples they have documented in the book and on www.PoorEconomics.com helps convince the development world that they need to continue evolving, adapting and improving, especially by discarding preconceived assumptions and perceptions about what poor people need, want and what is best for them.

Adaptation and change is always necessary. Without it, we would still be carbon molecules. Perhaps the change is not the hard part, and as one infamous organisation puts it, perhaps the hard part is recognising there is a problem.

 

Notes:

*Interestingly, on a side note a few smart people at Yale have found that the erroneous use of preconceived ideas in economic policy extends beyond development and developing countries. Their paper discusses the preconceived ideas conceptualised in Japanese economic policy and is available here. Whilst it is an interesting paper, don’t ask me how they determined that the ideas were preconceived or erroneous as my reading of the article failed to find an explanation.

** For example, books such as:

“27 Powers of persuasion” by Christ St Hilaire. Undoubtedly not the original source and original source not cited. Review coming soon, in the mean-time don’t bother buying it.

“Mindfield” by Lone Frank will have cited the original source, as it was one of the first books to make brain science understandable for common folk. Read it if you haven’t already, even though some of the science is probably outdated now.

*** Many thanks to Scott for the extended loan on this book – it shall be returned. Whilst the book is an interesting read it is not exactly cover-cover reading. It requires a little dedication, which I have been lacking.

Categories
Book Review Culture Ethics Fiction Global International Development Moral dilemmas Societal value

Review: “The satanic verses” by Salman Rushdie

Literature is an art. In art, there is no right or wrong answers. There is only the impact, the resulting inspiration, the feelings and emotions created by the art. In terms of impact, this book created a storm.

If you’re looking for a technical review that sheds light on that storm, your reading the wrong review. If you want to know why Muslims considered it insulting you can read this post from the Islamic Centre. Be warned, it’s hardly objective.   This review on  Goodreads by Riku Sayuji probably does a better job of saying what I’m trying to say but you need to know a little Shakespeare to understand it, and probably to have read the book already!

Enough caveats. This book is hard to read, yet strangely hard to let go. Even if it is a struggle it seems many people try, try and try again to read it. It is compelling and rewarding. Once I got past about pg 60 it become hard to ignore. The mix of dark and light, evil and goodness is obvious enough after a while for a layperson like me to understand. And yet, that same battle of hero and villain is sufficiently convoluted and complicated by the doubts, transformations and schizophrenia in its characters to represent reality, to have application in today’s morally complicated world. This is one of my favorite topics and has been covered before in the travel blog in such posts as a Guiding Light and the Genealogy of morals.

There was once a time that I thought it was possible to keep light and dark separate in this world. No doubt the definition of naïve. No doubt also, at that point, when on the moral high horse, we all have the capacity to be  “the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze?”. The kind of notion that would not permit integration, that would never be grey.

Rushdie goes on to show us that we need to accept that everyone, including ourselves, has the capacity for evil inside them. It is one of our challenges as conscious, empathetic beings to recognise when “Something [is] badly amiss with the spiritual life of the planet…Too many demons inside people claiming to believe in God.” Where God represents strict moral righteousness. The 10+ commandments of your choice, your cultures choice, your societies choice.

Whats the message for sustainability and development? Societal values and morals are influenced by culture. When working in unfamiliar cultures we need to take care to ensure our programs benefit from values that are consistent with the local societal values, where appropriate. And they wont always be appropriate – there are lots of grey areas out there and change is just as certain as death and taxes.