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A successful fiscal expansion in the US requires a succesful fiscal expansion everywhere? December 10, 2008

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Dani Rodrik notes that a Keynesian stimulus in the US will have extraordinarily limited impact if much of the money goes to buying now-cheaper imports. He poses a curious dilemma:

“…unless we come up with a solution to the credit constraints in the developing world, we are going to either endanger the effectiveness of Keynesian policies in the U.S. and other advanced nations, or risk a sharp increase in protectionism.  Not a pleasant choice.”

He puts out two possible solutions: way more liquidity via the IMF, or a Tobin tax with revenues redistributed to developing countries. I can’t say whether either would work, but it is definitely an interesting thought that a successful US fiscal expansion may hinge on a successful global fiscal expansion. Has the US ever before so badly needed the rest of the world to march to the same tune?


Bill Gates’ policy message to Obama on education and foreign aid December 3, 2008

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From the Chronicle of Philanthropy…


Gates Urges Obama to Maintain Education and International Spending

In a public-policy speech on Wednesday, Bill Gates warned President-elect Barack Obama against using the economic freefall to cut spending on U.S. schools or on health and antipoverty programs overseas. (more…)

Primer on Financial Crisis November 20, 2008

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For all those interested in understanding the financial crisis with a bit of historical background, this powerpoint is a great start.  Developed by the UK organization New Economics Foundation, the presentation covers the modern financial system from its birth to its… death?  and is presented in easy to understand layperson’s terms.  Enjoy!

Chat with Dan Hymowitz (MPP ’07) November 17, 2008

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Dan Hymowitz (MPP ’07) is a Scott Family Liberia Fellow with the Center for Global Development and is currently working closely with the National Coordinator of the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC), a donor coordination and policy planning unit in the Office of the President. (Think “senior advisor.”) Currently he is serving as the LRDC representative to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Technical Support Team. He is also working closely with several nontraditional donors who are developing projects in Liberia.

Dan completed a Masters of Public Policy at GSPP in 2007 where he focused on economics and global development. He also worked with a small research team on a project sponsored by UC Berkeley and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) which compared the market potential of three point-of-use water treatment technologies. In Summer 2006, he carried out a field trial in rural Bangladesh. Previously, Mr. Hymowitz worked for the U.S. Department of State in the Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs and also served as a policy analyst for the Slum Rehabilitation Society in Mumbai, India. Before graduate school, Mr. Hymowitz worked in Communications, primarily as a minor league sports broadcaster.

We talked to Dan in Liberia on November 6. Notes from our conversation follow–click the “More…” link.


Good international map visualizations November 14, 2008

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All you mapping fans will like Show/World. I recommend it for good quick visualizations that compare nations of a variety of economic, political, and other factors.

Also, if you haven’t seen it before, check out the Many Eyes online tool. I’ve uploaded numerous data sets here for good, quick visualizations. Besides maps (like this one) they allow really cool visualizations with a lot of complexity (like this one).

Global Initatives at Haas October 30, 2008

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From the site of Haas School of Business’ Global Initiatives:

Global Initiatives was founded in 2005 at the Haas School of Business by students with deep interests in international development in a wide range of sectors including Public Health, IT & Telecommunications, Energy, Financial Services, Education and Agriculture.

Realizing that UC Berkeley students are surrounded by some of the leading graduate programs in these fields, Global Initiatives is now focused on bringing together a network of graduate students interested in exploring the connection between development and enterprise.

Our aim to connect the Berkeley community with leading practitioners, researchers and specialists in related fields to understand current practices and explore future career opportunities. We still explore a variety of issues from bottom-of-the pyramid oriented organizations to the role of multinationals operating in emerging markets.

They sponsor the social enterprise and development courses and events at Haas. Check them out and sign up for their listserv!

Google.org speaker note October 28, 2008

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Below are notes from the talk of Alix Zwane and John Lyman of Google.org, given at GSPP on 10/28/08:


Coffee prices, oil prices, and violence in Colombia October 23, 2008

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Conflict is affected by commodity prices. That’s the empirical result of a fascinating study that shows how changes in world prices of coffee and oil correlated with rises and decreases in violence in Colombia.

Via Dani Rodrik:

When farm prices (or those of other labor-intensive resources) go up, the benefits are widespread, and many laborers see their incomes increase accordingly. But higher oil prices bring gains only to the privileged few who own the wells (and perhaps also their relatively small workforce), leading to even greater conflict over who controls the increasingly valuable oil.

The empirical analysis by Dube and Vargas shows that exactly this pattern holds.  When world prices for coffee and oil rise, there is less violence in the country’s coffee regions and more violence in oil regions.  This is a very neat piece of work that greatly enhances our understanding of the economics of conflict.

WB develops a “Human Opportunity Index” October 22, 2008

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While I generally cringe when people try to create indices for ultimately abstract and amorphous things, this strikes me as a neat project: trying to delineate how inequality affects opportunity in countries. If robust, it can be a great counterpoint to the Gini coefficient and really illuminate what the differential impacts of inequality might be.

Have yourself a look: The Human Opportunity Index.

China to pursue universal health care October 21, 2008

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Via the WSJ:

China’s government has unveiled a controversial plan to achieve universal care that would both increase health-care funding and control prices.

…The draft plan’s overall goal is to cover 90% of the population within two years and achieve universal care by 2020. It aims to return to non-profit national health care, an idea that was largely abandoned in the country 1980s.

This all stands in contrast to China’s current system, which provides little government funding to government hospitals and requires patients to pay heavy out-of-pocket expenses. The WSJ notes that out-of-pocket payments made up more than 60% of health spending in China at the end of the 1990s.

The plan — drafted in consultation with groups including the World Health Organization, the World Bank, consultant McKinsey & Co. and a few Chinese university-based public health experts — requires all revenue raised by public hospitals to be funneled to the state. The government also aims to set pricing standards for medical services.