Today in Bottom-Up Thinking

A friend was kind enough to send me this post about bottom-up thinking in development economics:

What must we do to end world poverty? There has been a search for sixty years for the right answer. Now most economists confess ignorance how to raise the rate of economic growth — how to progress more rapidly towards development and the end of poverty.

To get out of this dead end, I would respond to this question with more questions.

First, who is “we”? It seems like whoever “we” are, “we” must have unconstrained power to implement “the answer”, so “we” sounds like authoritarian leaders (national autocrats or World Bank officials dictating conditions).

Second, are “we” going to allow poor people to choose their own paths? Of course not, because “we” already know the “right answer” for them.

So this question only makes sense in approach to development that is authoritarian and paternalistic, using Top Down Planning, which in fact has been the prevailing – but unsuccessful – approach to development for six decades.

The paradox of development economics is that Development does NOT require any one person (Expert, Leader, or Aid Official) to have a comprehensive understanding of how to achieve Development (sort of like how evolution managed to happen on its own before Darwin).

I’m not an expert on development economics, but this seems like generally the right way to think about the subject. Any development solution that requires millions of people to conform to somebody’s official plan is likely to be failure.

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1 Response to Today in Bottom-Up Thinking

  1. AZMos says:

    Relatedly, see this article in last month’s Wired:

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