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A call to arms for ethical economics
on 4 March 2012
Professor Collier is one of the most progressive thinkers in development economics. His earlier book `The Bottom Billion' was an inspired piece of intellectual virtuosity. His follow-up doesn't disappoint.
Putting to use his razor-sharp economics brain, Professor Collier cuts through the sea of romanticized preconceptions and prejudices surrounding development economics. He has no time for self-interested lobbies or the fluffy middle-class love affair with peasant agriculture. The book is written with two basic ethical principles in mind:
1) the world's poorest must be lifted up; and
2) civilisation must be made sustainable.
Almost everyone will find some of their positions exploded (I certainly did).
The first section lays out his ethical principles. The second (long, technical) section deals with the chain of decision-making required for African countries to orchestrate an economic transformation through resource exploitation. The final sections deal with the big-picture environmental issues of the day.
Some key points
- International fishing rights need to be owned, otherwise international fisheries will be destroyed
- All subsidies to the fishing industry should be ended as soon as possible.
- A carbon tax is by far the most economically rational solution to climate change
- The key players who might block such a deal are Russia and the Middle East (i.e. the carbon exporters), not China and the USA
- The world needs more commercial agriculture on the Brazilian model, not less
- America should drop its fantasy of achieving energy independence through home-gown biofuels
- Europe should lift its damaging and anti-progressive ban on GM
- Organic food is a rich-world luxury, not a tool for feeding the poor
Telling statistic: until the GM ban in 1996, European grain yields tracked those of the US. Since 1996 they've fallen behind by 1-2% per year. As Europe is a big grain producer this is a major contributing factor to higher food commodity prices.
Quote: "The idea that fishermen should get the rights to scarce fish for free is analogous to oil companies getting the rights to oil for free."
Professor Collier points out that in this networked age, people power will prove decisive to more enlightened public policy. Have a look at NaturalResourceCharter[DOT]org. A brilliant book - anyone interested in a better, more sustainable, world would do well to absorb its lessons.