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Growth and the case against randomista development

lucy, given Linch's admonition elsethread, I am taking a break from engaging with the content you present. I am not sure how best to phrase this, but I just wanted to say I empathize with your perception of being viewed as an outgroup/outcaste. I think that must feel quite bad. In spite of so far not agreeing a lot, I don't want to contribute to you feeling that way, quite the contrary; I want everyone to feel welcomed here and in all EA spaces, and I apologize if my actions unwittingly had the opposite effect.

Growth and the case against randomista development

Thank you for your admonition, Linch. I'd point out I wouldn't like to be grouped together with people up- or downvoting lucy; I haven't voted on their comments except but one each way. As for the actual content of the conversation, this is not how I wanted it to be perceived; I wonder if you could help me identify what went wrong at a more detailed level, in private. I know about identifying clear cruxes and having a scout's mindset, I endorse collaborative truth-seeking, yet here I failed to implement these things and it is not clear to me why; I could use help with that.

Growth and the case against randomista development

I was with you until the very end, then I got confused. Do you think it is fair to say that people don't know what's best for them when it comes to trade liberalization? (I do.)

I have way fewer qualms about saying that voters don't know what's best for them. Take, for example, South Africa. They use a pretty darn good voting system - single-ballot closed-list proportional representation with half the seats coming from province-level lists and the other half from nationwide lists - and I think the conduct of the elections themselves is decently well-organized; turnout has been dropping recently, but it was a whopping 89.3% in 1999.

I (cherry-)picked that one election because it brought Thabo Mbeki to the Presidency. He didn't believe HIV caused AIDS; he thought AIDS is caused by vitamin deficiencies. He oriented the country's policy based on that belief. Southern Africa is one of the areas with the highest incidence of the disease in the world. So, yeah, in that particular case the 66.5% of South Africans who voted for him clearly did not know what was best for them.

Also, it could be that we know with only 80% confidence what the best policies are, but we know with a much higher certainty that some policies (like subsidizing gas until it costs less than USD 0.05 a liter, like Hugo Chavez did) are completely wrong. Yet people still vote for them.

So yes, I am fairly confident that by and large people here in poor countries do not want growth, or that they do not want to avoid the policies that we know are harmful to growth.

You could point out that I cherry picked that one election, and that is true. But I think that, generally speaking, elections at least here in Latin America are broadly representative of people's will, or as much as is possible in a presidential system (I think parliamentarianism is stricly better). AFAIK most countries use proportional representation rather than single-member districts, which are a big cause of dysfunctional-ness in e.g. US politics. Basically, we're not stuck in the same inadequate equilibria as the US is. And turnout in, say, Brazil is pretty high, because voting is mandatory.

So, for democracies here in Latin America, I'd be fairly confident on "people don't get pro-growth policies because they choose not to" over "people would want pro-growth policies but fail to get them because of poor election methods or low turnout". (The low turnout hypothesis would also be fishy in that it would suggest a correlation between turning out to vote and being against growth; I'd find that correlation surprising if it existed. If there was any meaningful correlation, I'd expect it to go in the other direction.)

I'm way less confident in African elections. Some countries, like Ghana and South Africa, conduct their elections pretty well, I believe, but that's probably not the norm in the continent. Most countries have very little experience with democracy (the 1999 election I mentioned was only the second one). Then again, some cultures in Africa have traits like:

  • the belief that albino body parts are somehow good for disease;
  • female genital mutilation;
  • insistence on contact with bodies of Ebola victims.

Things like this, as well as political views that are clearly a majority in the continent (e.g. non-acceptance of homosexuality, which is still illegal in nearly 2/3 of African countries) give me substantial confidence that yeah, they don't know what's best for their countries.

(I'm not saying should try to make them want growth; what I am saying is that, if the article is right that that's what EAs should focus on, then we need to keep that in mind.)

Growth and the case against randomista development
The nation with highest life expectancy is Japan at 84 years, Chile, USA and every "developed" country is 75+ I would say all of them are on par

If pretty much all developed countries have a similar life expectancy (apart from Japan), and the USA is quite significantly richer, than yes, it is the US that's the outlier, not Chile.

I'm just going by India's self-identification.

I was going by India's *socialist* self-identification. There's reason to dispute e.g. North Korea's democratic credentials. India said it was socialist, Venezuela still does (China appends the "with Chinese characteristics" euphemism/tautology, of course), Denmark doesn't. I think it is reasonable to follow *that* self-identification, because I think the only people who would dispute that, say, Venezuela deserves the label are socialists who are sour about their ideology collapsing yet another country, and that is just not reasonable.

free public schooling (socialist schooling)

I dispute that equivalence.

Which economists should be followed?

The best ones.

One child policy had no effect on China's population size. It was their widespread education pre-1979 than reduced fertility.

I would like an *excellent* source on that claim.

The riots are a non-issue in the big scheme of things.

If changing the Constitution is a non-issue, what counts as an issue to you?

Yes education is the fundamental factor for human well being

What exactly do you *mean* by education here?

cuban is very ideological I assume

That much more than Chinese one? Or is it okay for it to be ideological?

no idea about Costa Rica

As far as I know, it is excellent... yet the country is still poor.

Anyway it's not what is taught in school that is important. It is the quantum jump that comes with being able to read, write, reason, interpret, understand the world that is important. As compared to a totally illiterate person.

Is your claim that, regardless of what is taught in school, as long as someone is not illiterate, they can adequately assess which policies are more conducive to growth and which ones are bad? Is this what you're saying?

Growth and the case against randomista development

I'm not sure I get what the core of the disagreement is. Perhaps you could try expressing to me what your understanding of my view is, to clarify the comparison with yours? In general I think I agree with most of your comment.

Growth and the case against randomista development

Thank you, Linch. My question was more focused on the education part than the health part, although I agree I should have made that clearer. The information you provided is still good to know, though - and impressive indeed.

Growth and the case against randomista development
life expectancy in Chile is on par with US, my interest about Chile would be more around how they have same life expectancy as US with less money.

I think the outlier there is the US, not Chile.

Sure you can call them socialist, although I don't like labels.

I'm just going by India's self-identification.

Under Nehru basic education was neglected, as was basic healthcare.

I don't know enough to comment on this.

I don't want to argue or think about labels, it is just a waste of time.

I find this particular label useful because it seems to anticorrelate fairly well with pro-growth policies, especially as long as the system hasn't obviously failed yet (e.g. even Venezuela is somewhat liberalizing now).

I am for universal basic education, and universal basic healthcare both of which were done better by China than India, or any "developed" country for that matter with their universal free public schooling systems.

Could I please have a source on China being that good, especially pre-Deng Xiaoping's reforms? Does "better healthcare" include the several dozen million deaths in the Great Leap Ahead and other assorted atrocities? One has to keep in mind present-day China handpicks its best provinces to take part on PISA so the comparison is not apples to apples. Furthermore, this claim of Chinese citizens being particularly well-educated seems incongruous with the one about education being necessary to critcially evaluate public policy, since I'd expect Chinese education to be a total brainwash in favor of the Party.

My point about Nehru and industrialization was that there was a desire for economic growth, whether the right policies were followed is a different question.

Was there such desire? If that is the case, why were the right policies not followed? It is not like late 1940s economists couldn't predict that Nehru's policies would have pretty terrible results.

India and China opened up 10 years from each other, but India is 20-30 years behind China.

China also opened up more, and the one-child policy gave it a bigger demographic dividend. This by itself might be able to explain the growth difference (especially GDP per capita).

In Chile that number is less than 2%
Basic Education makes a difference.

That does not explain the riots here in Chile. In fact, it does sound like you think education is a panacea. What do you think of North Korean education? Cuban? Costa Rican?

Growth and the case against randomista development

Lucy, thank you for your comment, even though I disagree with most of it :)

Chile was ahead of much of South America in 1950

AFAIK, Chile crumbled in the 1970s. Electing Socialist Salvador Allende is an example of what I mean by "choosing anti-growth policies"; the first half of the Pinochet dictatorship didn't help with growth (and, obviously, was a disaster for human rights).

I would not put Singapore in the same bucket as China

I agree they're quite different, but the point is that in both countries the leadership can just outright decide to shift their policies with little in the way of popular resistance.

plenty of other authoritarian countries did far worse.

Yes, I am not claiming that being authoritarian is sufficient, it clearly isn't. It is not necessary either, but that seems to have helped a whole lot in the cases I mentioned. Even Brazil didn't have a proper central bank until the 1964 military coup.

Notice that me pointing out authoritarianism helped with pro-growth policies is not in any way an endorsement of these authoritarian regimes.

India's first Prime Minister prioritized industrialization calling dams and heavy industry as temples of modern india.

India's pre-1990s policies were not pro-growth, they were explicitly socialist. Industrialization per se is not inherently a pro-growth policy; countries need to be mindful of their comparative advantages. Nehru imposed all sorts of weird, distorting subsidies and price controls on things like coal and transportation. It was Manmohan Singh who implemented India's first pro-growth policies, first as Finance Minister then as Prime Minister.

They do want it, but first to evaluate "pro-growth" arguments they need basic education.

That depends on the kind of education. The way I see it, subjects that would help would be reading, math, science, economics. Policies that claim for "more education", in Brazil at least, tend to emphasize a completely different skillset: far leftist-biased history, far leftist-biased geography, far leftist-biased sociology, far leftist-biased philosophy, arts and culture (there's this perception that "more culture" is some sort of panacea), and "critical thinking", which is usually code for "opposing pro-growth policies". So getting more of this type of education in Brazil would be *worse* for growth.

Chile ranks highest in Latin America in the PISA international evaluation, and these most-educated-people completely thrashed their own metro system last year while protesting against fare hikes; a good deal of the stations are still unusable, especially in the poorest parts of Santiago, even 3.5 months after the rampage.

Growth and the case against randomista development

I am ridiculously late to the party, and I must confess that I have not read the entire article.

My comment is about what I would expect to happen if EA decided to shift towards encouraging pro-growth policies. What I have to say is perhaps a refining of objection 5.4, politicization. It is how I perceive this would be instantiated. My perceptions are informed by being from a middle-income country (Brazil) and living in another (Chile), while having lived in the developed world (America) to know what it's like.

The authors correctly acknowledge that this has a "politicized nature". For the time being, the only way to enact pro-growth policies would be to influence those who hold political power in the target countries.

My concern about this is: people in such countries do not want these policies. They show that by how they think, how they act, how they vote, how they protest. Here in Chile, for example, people have been fighting tooth and nail against the policies that made the country the wealthiest, most educated one in South America, the only OECD member in the subcontinent. The content of the protests is explicitly against the pro-market policies that have prevailed for the last 40 years here. It is likely that an April referendum on a new constitution will pass, and replace the current basic law with another, much less growth-oriented.

It is worth noting that late-development countries where pro-growth policies have been enacted were often authoritarian at the time (South Korea, Taiwan, Chile), or still are (China, Singapore); even democracies like India and Indonesia are not shining beacons of civil liberties. Poor democracies, as a rule, do not consistently choose growth.

The text points out: "However, it is worth noting that EA funders are already involved in some highly politicised work, such as advocacy for increasing migration and criminal justice reform." This is true, but there is one factor to consider, and I'll put it in an intended humorous way, hoping that it will not be taken as hostility because there is zero intent of that: you are all a bunch of gringos! Obviously this does not matter to discern whether what you are saying or doing is right or wrong, but there is an exceedingly easy (and wrong) pattern to match against, that will raise objections instantly as soon as EA decides to try to influence our countries towards growth: you will be perceived as greedy gringos trying to exploit us for your own good.

And why do I keep using the second person, when I consider myself as much of an effective altruist as the next person? Because there are not nearly enough of us here to influence policy. I would love to know how to do it, but I find it highly unlikely. Even if we were more numerous, at our current size (just me here in Chile that I know of, about one or two dozen of people with at least a vague attachment to EA ideas in Brazil) we already cannot coordinate politically (I have no idea who most of the others voted for in 2018, and there was no talk of it whatsoever that I recall). And the same pattern I mentioned above can easily be reused to portray us as sellouts.

So, in short, the big question about EA developing the world is, in my opinion, how to make people want it.

Growth and the case against randomista development

I'm gonna write a slightly more detailed top-level comment about this, but the gist of it is: policies that can reasonably be expected to produce growth are *strongly opposed* in the countries that need them.

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