Round-up: Powerpoint, Captain Planet, “Africa”, the DC metro, and more

“The revolution will not come by Powerpoint.” Via Jina Moore, who credits @sonjasugira, comes a phenomenal take-down of the development industry by Martin Kimani.

Happy Birthday, Captain Planet! The star of one of the most widely-syndicated television programs of the early 1990s turns 20 today. More here.

Smaller East African nations more supportive of common currency. A Gallup poll shows more support for a common currency (the goal for the East African Community by 2012) among Ugandans, Burundians and Rwandans than among Tanzanians and Kenyans.

“Concentrate on the quality of the education, not the ownership.” From the Economist leader on regulation of for-profit colleges.

“I Studied Abroad in Africa!” At the risk of mocking myself and many friends, I’ll share this gem. (With a general hat tip to the various friends who posted it on Facebook.)

“Is Africa poised for steady, rapid growth?” This is the kind of question that professors put on the take-home final for an intro to development class, to be answered in under 800 words. Oddly, it’s also what the Economist invited several prominent economists to debate. Results are here. Unsurprisingly, the responses read like the responses an intro to development class would give. They try to hit too many points without being convincing on any of them. If you’ve taken an intro to development class recently, nothing much will surprise you here.

That said, the star contribution comes from Lant Pritchett, who disputes the question itself with a piece titled, “That depends on what you mean by ‘Africa’.” He uses a characteristically clever analogy: “Are mammals cute? My little dog is cute as the dickens but the star nosed mole gives beastly a bad name. The word ‘mammal’ is the wrong abstraction for discussing cute.” The other contributions take the question at face value. Gilles Saint-Paul cites ethnic fragmentation, “low-trust” equilibriums and family structures as “idiosyncratic institutional shortcomings” and then equivocates on Paul Romer’s charter cities concept. Daron Acemoglu notes similar institutional factors, with a heavier emphasis on their colonial origins, and cites the path of Latin American countries as a role model. Eswar Prasad is optimistic about Africa’s resource base, human capital and recent inflows of foreign capital; he also calls on developed countries to open up their markets and eliminate agricultural subsidies. Suman Bery notes the impacts of the resource curse and commodity dependence, and also cites Latin American countries as role models.

xkcd: Official comic of development nerds? The web comic xkcd mocked physicists today, but simultaneously mocked economists too. It points to the tendency of every discipline to think that its methods apply outside its primary field. In the same vein: Dean Karlen at IPA just posted a link to two other xkcd strips about randomized controlled trials: here and here.

“Y’all ever rode on the Metro?” Because I know most of this blog’s readers have either lived in or at least visited DC at some point, and surely availed themselves of the public transit while there, I offer this:

If he looks familiar, it’s because this is the same genius who brought us Arlington: The Rap — which was forwarded to me by about 15 people the day it came out.