Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
“Academic studies too often begin and end on the basis of general principles without due regard for ground-level complexities.” Jeffrey Sachs
I have often been a proponent of the idea that academics have nothing more to contribute to the world than recycled rhetoric. They continuously recycle the debates and application of failed ideology only to defend their failures to recognize the fallacy with absolute fervour. I was relieved when Jeffrey Sachs’s mentioned the above quote in his book ‘Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet’. Many would critique his quote by pointing out that he is just another Keynesian Economics propagandist who does not see the benefits of a private oriented market economy. But like I said before “absolute fervour”.
What he and I seem to recognize and agree upon is the underlying realities which govern different countries; which is – they are “DIFFERENT”! Economic policy initiatives can not be proposed without understanding the ground realities. A country in which most of the land mass is covered in dessert cannot have an free market economic policy oriented towards an economy which has oil under the vast dessert. The commonality of the land mass does not mean that the underlying economic strengths of both countries are the same. One country has a natural resource which is commonly known as ‘Black Gold’ to exploit and reinvest in its people. While the other is deprived of any exploitable natural resource. Implementation of economic policy which would largely benefit the former onto to later would be nothing for than a failed attempt to recreate economic realities which cannot be further apart.
One of the reasons why academics seem to be so blind to their mistakes is that they rarely are aware of the what truly happens on the ground. They might travel to a country and read some data that were already collected or do their own sample data research for a couple of months and leave. But they do not truly understand how it is to live in a deprived economy. The ground realities can only be known by a local and more often than not many locals lie to researchers because of fear of persecution, especially in some regions of Africa. All these factors are chalked up on calculating the probabilities of error on a research paper. While ignoring that, probability itself is based on assumptions of conditional regularity. Another factor which is mostly ignored is that if a country is said to have a strong GDP growth, it is generally considered to be well off. This is again a very radical assumption. India has one of the strongest GDP growths in the world and yet has a poverty rate of 45%. I would say this is a country which is still struggling.
We can never hope to come up with a singular economic policy that will benefit the entire population. But we can come up with a branched economic models that can be applied to different sections according to the need of that particular group. Currently all poverty alleviation projects are targeted towards a rapid privatization policy from the top down; where an existing government, whether corrupt or not, is given the responsibility to implement policy initiatives. Academics need to loosen their grip on ideologies which have failed and have shown no proof of helping humans advance. We are living in a time when inequality is said to be the highest. We need new ideas and not recycled economic models.
Written by Colin Sydney, (2015) Colin is a political economist and a photographer. His blog can be found at Econopolity.com.