Friday, April 28, 2006

Easterly vs. Sachs on global poverty

I started reading Jeffrey Sachs' new book The End of Poverty. The first 30 pages are excellent, but it starts getting arrogant and annoying quick. Substantively, I'm uncertain whether a big new development aid push will solve things.

Since I enthusiastically bum around course websites I'm not taking (bad habit, will stop real soon now), I was fortunate to run across an excellent debate between Sachs and William Easterly:

Easterly's view on Africa: The West Can't Take The Lead which has some amazing anecdotes about African educators and entrepreneurs. (Or, I think they're amazing only because I'm a condescending Westerner?)

Easterly reviews Sachs. Choice quote:

"Success in ending the poverty trap," Sachs writes, "will be much easier than it appears." Really? If it's so easy, why haven't five decades of effort gotten the job done? Sachs should redirect some of his outrage at the question of why the previous $2.3 trillion didn't reach the poor so that the next $2.3 trillion does. In fact, ending poverty is not easy at all. In those five decades, poverty researchers have learned a great deal about the complexity of toxic politics, bad history (including exploitative or inept colonialism), ethnic and regional conflicts, elites' manipulation of politics and institutions, official corruption, dysfunctional public services, malevolent police forces and armies, the difficulty of honoring contracts and property rights, unaccountable and excessively bureaucratic donors and many other issues.

and finally a debate in the Letters section! Oh what fun. And dreadfully important. I've got to read Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth next...

Monday, April 24, 2006

high irony

What do the newly enriched Chinese bourgeois spend their money on? Vacations to visit Marx's home in Trier, of course!

The identity politics of satananic zombie alien man-beasts

I thought Eurovision was weird enough already. But in addition to the usual fun mix of kitschy pop and Cold War legacy nationalism in its telephone voting politics, this year will see Finland's satanic band Lordi:

HELSINKI, Finland — They have eight-foot retractable latex Satan wings, sing hits like "Chainsaw Buffet" and blow up slabs of smoking meat on stage. So members of the band Lordi expected a reaction when they beat a crooner of love ballads to represent Finland at the Eurovision song contest in Athens, the competition that was the springboard for Abba and Celine Dion.

"In Finland, we have no Eiffel Tower, few real famous artists, it is freezing cold and we suffer from low self-esteem," said Mr. Putaansuu, who, as Lordi, has horns protruding from his forehead and sports long black fingernails.

As he stuck out his tongue menacingly, his red demon eyes glaring, Lordi was surrounded by Kita, an alien-man-beast predator who plays flame-spitting drums inside a cage; Awa, a blood-splattered ghost who howls backup vocals; Ox, a zombie bull who plays bass; and Amen, a mummy in a rubber loincloth who plays guitar.

Dragging on a cigarette, Mr. Putaansuu added, "Finns nearly choked on their cereal when they realized we were the face Finland would be showing to the world."


But not everyone in this Nordic country of five million views the monster squad as un-Finnish. Some Finns say that Lordi is right at home and that the band's use of flaming dragon-encrusted swords and exploding baby dolls expresses the warrior spirit of the Vikings.

Link: NYTimes: Finland Squirms as Its Latest Export Steps Into Spotlight