Arnold Kling  

The Henderson Let Em In Club

Obamacare Passes By 6/30/10: S... O'Grady on Haiti...

Bill Easterly is a member.

82 Percent of Haitians above this poverty line [$10 per day] are here in the United States. (I calculate this with Lant Pritchett here, ungated version here.) Only the top 1.4 percent of people in Haiti had that living standard even before the quake, and there is no evidence that Haitian emigrants come primarily from the extreme tip-top of the income distribution. So for most of Haitians who left, leaving Haiti was the cause of leaving poverty.

[UPDATE: so is Michael Spence, in the latest econtalk. I think the interview picks up about half way through.]

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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Jonathan writes:

That's Michael Clemens.

David C writes:

Are nobodies allowed to join?

David R. Henderson writes:

David C,
No one's a nobody.

Loof writes:

No one’s a nobody - in reality.

In neo-classical economic theory (left, right and centrally conceptual): everybody in need appears as a nobody (and those embodying greed are the best bodies, indeed)— except in emergencies, it seems.

Lauren writes:

Hi, Loof.

I understand what you are trying to express, but you haven't said it quite right. Please let me give it another stab.

First, in neo-classical economic theory everyone is actually identical. Either everyone is a nobody or everyone is a somebody, but no one in neoclassical economics is any different from anyone else in the theory. It's an occasional complaint about neo-classical economic theory that there are merely what are called "representative agents"--typical or average economic people who are not differentiated by whether they are rich or poor, married or single, where they work in a country or the world, whether they work for big or small companies or the government, whether they are young or old, educated or not, or stay-at-home housewives/househusbands versus looking for jobs, etc. In neoclassical macroeconomic theory, everyone's identical. In fact, it's very much a populist depiction of the world, bringing the richest, most educated, most privileged down and the poorest, least educated, least privileged up to all be at the average level as a first approximation.

There is a big difference between theory and application. How a theory is perceived--how it is depicted in the press and how it is used by political partisans--are usually very different from what the theory says. Those stretches and applications, perceptions, and depictions are typically associated with the way the press or politicians spin the most extreme implications of a theory. They are not usually what the theory says or assumes. People understandably want economic theory to offer answers and solutions and do it now. No economic theory--neo-classical or neo-Keynesian or anything else--is there yet.

I think what you may have wanted to say is that in left, right and centrally conceptual politics, it seems to many folks--yourself included--that people in need appear as nobodies except perhaps in emergencies.

And with that, I agree. When it comes to politics--left, right, center--people in need get bypassed. An insightful economist, Aaron Director, once summed this up by observing that most legislation that actually gets enacted benefits the middle class. Not the richest, not the poorest. Both the richest and the poorest are nobodies when it comes to legislation.

Eric H writes:

I don't think the remaining Haitians will be best served by a mass emigration.

I think a policy that encourages a mass emigration will leave Haiti's wealthy and politically powerful in place to govern over a populace that is even poorer, their less risk-averse countrymen having left.

I think there is a good chance that encouraging a mass emigration might amount to encouraging an entrepreneurial brain-drain in Haiti, which would be the last thing its desperately poor need. They will need entrepreneurs to serve them, not bureaucrats.

It might be safe to assume as well that wealthy Haitians have always had the chance to leave Haiti, or at least have always had the means of leaving whenever they please. They probably remain because they can expend less energy in Haiti to be wealthy and powerful than they'd have to expend in the U.S.

Michael Clemens writes:

@Eric H: So your development strategy for Haiti is to trap entrepreneurs there against their will? That is likely to be as effective as would be a strategy to 'develop' an inner-city neighborhood in the US by fencing it in to trap entrepreneurs inside --- or much less effective, since countries are vastly more complex than neighborhoods and therefore much more difficult to engineer via remote-control coercion. Beyond the issue of effectiveness, there is the profound ethical problem of Americans, who by birthright can go live almost anywhere they please, using armed coercion to trap entrepreneurs in a place where their skills are mostly useless.

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