Optimists vs. Pessimists

Chris Blattman, who teaches poli sci and econ at Yale, has a good post on his blog today. He quotes a writer from The Guardian saying that the development paradigm of the 20th century has run out of steam, then refutes him. It’s a good summary of the argument development optimists (mostly economists) make against development pessimists (mostly ecologists or humanitarians). What stands out in this argument, as usual, is that pessimists aren’t familiar with what’s happening from the point of view of macro-economics. The world economy is growing fast, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. The percentage, if not the absolute number, of people who go poor and hungry is down. Of course, this could be the giddy feeling one has halfway down from a plunge off a cliff. Pessimists can argue that, especially with the specter of global warming haunting everything. But at least give the optimists their due: life has become better for a lot of people.

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4 Responses to “Optimists vs. Pessimists”

  1. Dan Melligan Says:

    It also takes the average reader a good deal of time to tease out the inherent political considerations that drive our views on these things. I can’t help but believe that ecologists and humanitarians have their own organizational interests at heart. No doubt, economists do, too.

    Thanks for the thought on this.

  2. Vernon Peterson Says:

    If you speak with any evangelical pastor in Latin America, he (or she) will tell you that one of the greatest problems they face is adequate parking space for the church services. The pioneer missionaries were often the only ones with vehicles.

    People having cars may not be a sign of progress for the pessimists in your blog, but it certainly does point out that, for whatever reason, the middle class has grown significantly (and certainly among evangelicals) south of our borders…

  3. Vernon Peterson Says:

    One more though… Cooperation in Change, Ward Goodenough, (1963) is a classic read… one example: “To change the beliefs that rationalize our behavior is to make ourselves guilty where we have not been before.”

  4. jayemptyjay Says:

    and may we all live to see the day when those who risk their personal wealth in order to consistently provide goods and services for their fellow human beings, and do so efficiently enough to provide employment for even more fellow human beings are thought of as humanitarians.

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