The Pervasiveness of Efficiency

Were 19th-century slaves working in the US Southern plantations more efficient than the free farmers of the Northern states? This was one of the critical questions two economists, one being a pioneer of cliometrics, studied in a book published in 1974. Based on extensive empirical research and data available at the time, their conclusion was positive and, at least initially, beyond any doubt.

While first reactions to the book were overwhelmingly favorable, criticism soon started to proliferate. Economic historians were the first ones to speak up, going after the definition of efficiency and the way it was calculated. Some argued that efficiency could not be computed adequately in such context. But perhaps the most fundamental issue was the link the book established between the alleged high

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From MDGs to SDGs

An unexpected abundance of acronyms seems to be on of the traits of the UN. Having worked at the organization for (too) many years helped corroborate this fact. Certainly, the UN is not the only entity with such a trait, not by a long shot. However, the UN has formal global scope and thus acronyms rapidly spread around the world, some getting quick translations into local languages thus adding more to the growing list. The MDGs and their recent transition to SDGs are perhaps a good example.

Two years ago, UN country members agreed to replace the M in MDGs with an S (s as in sustainable). This was complemented by a two-fold “inflationary” process. First, and unlike the MDGs, the SGDs became universal, applicable to all countries, from the super-rich to the poorest. By 2030, most if not all

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Evolution of Global Internet Access – 1990 – 2015

No doubt Internet access has come a long way in the last 25 years. The latest estimates for 2016 show that 3.45 billion people have access to the Internet. That is 47% of the world’s population. The flip side of this number is perhaps more revealing: more than half of the world is not connected to the network. Bear in mind these statistics measure Internet access from home thus excluding those who log in from public access sites such as libraries and CyberCafes, for example. It is possible that these numbers underestimate actual usage. But as long as such underestimation is consistent over time, we can safely use the data to do some analysis,

In this post, I will look at Internet access by country1 Note that 2016 data by country is not yet available. and by income levels as defined by

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Note that 2016 data by country is not yet available.

Wealth and Income Inequality Data

A new version of the World Wealth and Income Inequality database has been available online since last January. The new website has a new slick look. It also offers an interactive tool to view and visualize data on a global scale or by country. For those who love to poke around, looking at the raw data is also feasible, as well as download in interactive fashion.  Several formats are available for downloading such as CSV, for example. Selecting a specific data structure for downloading is possible as the site offers four different options.

However, downloading the whole data set with one click is not an option users can select. Nor are there any APIs available that could facilitate such process. The website does not really support Open Data access, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, I have no

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Human Rights and Utopia

The use of the words “human rights” in the English language only started in the 1940s. It was just until the late 1970s that the concept as we know it today emerged in full force. Nevertheless, historians of human rights have been able to trace the idea back to the Greek Stoics and study its evolution since then.

In his book on the topic, Moyn argues that these efforts are not accurate as the concept of rights and human rights have evolved historically. It is also essential to avoid assuming that universal claims about “the rights of man” are the same as the contemporary concept of human rights.

Looking back in history, Moyn tells us that when it comes to rights two distinct but connected patterns can be detected: 1. The link between rights and citizenship; and 2. The relationships between

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Basic Economics for All

In an attempt to critique mainstream economics,  Adler’s short book focuses on two key pillars of today’s dominant economic theory: 1. Pareto’s efficiency theorem; and 2. The theory of wages. The central question to bear in mind is the implicit assumption that what is good for the rich is also good for the rest of us. How did we get to this point? Was this always the case? What led to this situation?  The author does not attempt to provide a complete overview of current economics but rather show that two of its essential principles are not supported by current policies and the historical evidence.

Efficiency and happiness

To critique Pareto’s efficiency theorem and its policy and social implications, Adler uses Bentham’s utilitarian theory. This theory says that happiness in any society

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Comments on FOSS and Public Administration in Costa Rica Report

As part of the FOSS and SMMEs project we have funded in Costa Rica, we commissioned a report on the above subject which was implemented by the local counterpart, the National University of Costa Rica. The latest version of the report is here (in Spanish of course!):  CR-FOSS- PA-report-2012-09-06 .

Here are my comments (in Spanish too!)

  1. El reporte está muy bueno y creo que la investigación que se ha hecho sobre las inversiones en TICs así como las encuestas y los estudios de caso son excelentes. Como mencioné en una reunión con el equipo que hizo este trabajo en Julio, creo que este tipo de investigación no se ha hecho con mucha frecuencia en la región o incluso a nivel global y por lo mismo sería ideal para el PNUD al menos documentarla y ´exportarla´ a otros países que afrontan retos similares.

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