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May 08, 2008


Anh Tran

Nice presentation. By the way, you look better in video than in picture.

Anyways, I just want to raise one point regarding rich and poor. The problem with economists is that they make too many assumptions. Here, assuming where people prefer to live based on consumption level misses a lot of things in reality. Let me give one important factor that also determines where people prefer to live: ego or social status.

From the data that you give, although the rich people in poor countries earn 3 times less than the poor people in rich countries, they have enormous social status within their countries. In many cultures, especially Asian, how other people view your economic life is much more important than how well your economic life actually is. To put this into context, I would rather live in a poor country and be viewed as rich; this would satisfy my ego. So, maybe your students did not really get the answer wrong.

Anyways, the above is not related to the key points of your presentation. I just want to raise it to show how economists often recommend policy options that does not reflect the whole reality because their assumptions are often unrealistic. Happiness is a relative thing. Defining happiness based on economic performance dramatically simplify the complex reality of human society.

Anthony Yunnie

The full set of reports were released yesterday. I am quite interested to see what you all had to say. Unfortunately, I think that any recommendations to free up the labour market will be heavily argued against by Cosatu, the ANC youth league and various other left elements.


Thanks professor, nice information. I have a nagging doubt nevertheless, after many many printed articles, conferences , books, etc on the development issue. Was all that worthy, insightful, valuable? Has any set of concrete theoretical recommendations worked in practice. Because for one of the most important examples of rapid growth ( China) all I see is post hoc rationalizations of why China is growing so fast, when as you and other have argued many times, China many times did the opposite of what the conventional wisdom in the development field recommended.

Anthony Yunnie

It is crushing, as a South African, to see comments like this in the news:

"Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the report had not been discussed. "We do not take instructions from the Harvard group.""

There is an exodus of skilled labour from the country, and government and its alliance partners continue to take steps backwards, and not forwards. Why waste money on these studies if you are not going to listen to the advise? Its ludicrous.

If you are interested in the article that I quoted, go to:


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