By invitation and by necessity

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.” … I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here. Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here…

Deirdre McCloskey on liberty and human flourishing

The real ability of the poorest to buy goods and services rose, 1800 to the present, by 3,000 percent. Literally. A factor of thirty. … I take it you value human liberty and human flourishing. (If you do not, we have nothing to discuss, and can go straight to fighting it out in the streets.) You will know that the…

The water we swim in: Robert Pondiscio on culture and school performance

This extract is from is a great Econtalk discussion of How the Other Half Learns. Recommend. Robert Pondiscio: They [Success Academy Charter Schools] require an extraordinary level of parent commitment both in time and responsiveness. And it just seems pointless to deny that for some number of parents, this is simply too much. I want to be clear here that…

Contextualising best practice: one size does not fit all

Here’s another example of how “best practice” is context dependent, this time in responses to the Covid-19 crisis: What’s the point? The point – especially for those working with poor or marginalised communities – is that standard “best practice” from other contexts is unlikely to transfer directly to where you’re working. Education, health services, housing policy and politics don’t occur…

Clare Leaver and Lant Pritchett on Pay for Performance for teachers (and how to think about interventions in general)

Even if you’re not interested in pay for performance, this article is is fantastic in the way that it sets a clear foundation for discussion of an emotive topic by pointing out the often-overlooked but obvious common ground shared by readers on all sides of the debate: Here is the essence of our argument. High-performing education systems already use some…

Lant Pritchett on reducing learning poverty: targeted interventions vs systemic change

“… when the whole system is producing weak results for nearly every child, then “inclusion” is a false premise. In this situation, it is necessary to fix the whole system and increase performance across the board in order to reduce the number of children stranded in low performance. Lant Pritchett – Tackling Education poverty with system-wide improvements Lant Pritchett is…

On Jean Valjean’s carriage, technological progress and interchangeable parts

Jean Valjean – in a desperate hurry to save an innocent man from being condemned – has stopped to rest his horse and discovered that his carriage has a broken wheel: This excellent beast had covered twelve and a half miles in two hours and had not a drop of sweat on its rump. … “Can you repair the wheel…

Russ Roberts on inequality and poverty

Our age right now – this might change – is obsessed with inequality. And it disturbs me deeply that inequality is conflated with poverty. They’re not the same thing. A lot of people blame the condition of the poor on inequality as if the world was a zero sum game. If you press the person who says that [they’ll say]…

Podcast Recommendation: two interviews with Raj Chetty

I really enjoyed listening to these two interviews with Raj Chetty. By all accounts (I’m not qualified to judge!) he is a good economist. He also comes across as someone who’s interested in people and working for policies that help actual people in the real world, rather than as an economist only interested in theory and abstraction. These episodes are…

Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon on integrating inputs

The question still remains, why does Tolaram [makers of Indomie in Nigeria] need to invest in electricity, water, education, logistics, and so on, in order to deliver a pack of noodles to the average Nigerian? Surely, it wouldn’t need to do this if it were operating in, say, the United States. The answer to that question—on when and whether a…