Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
What works. What doesn't. Continuing on the theme of development, and of how delusions such as those propagated by Christian Aid ultimately cost lives, here is something I meant to post earlier.

Habits of Highly Effective Countries: Lessons for South Africa by Leon Louw.

You can read Brian Micklethwait's recommendation here, and listen to Brian and the author talking about it in one of those new-fangled podblasts or whatever name they go by, if the words on computer screens that were good enough for our forefathers are not good enough for you. I digress. Brian writes:

What came across most strongly was Leon’s absolute, fist clenched determination to distinguish between, on the one hand, what he would merely like to be true about what happens in well (and badly) governed countries, and, on the other hand, what he is actually able to report to be true about these places. As he said right at the start, what he is trying to do is to amass facts that are simply impossible to argue against. This is what successful countries do. This is what failed countries do. And so on.

For instance, he has discovered the incontrovertible fact that the mere level of taxation simply is not as important as we libertarians would have the world believe. (By the way, Leon Louw is an unswerving and utterly uncompromising libertarian and he said it very plainly in our talk.) What matters, it turns out, is how a government behaves, and how it spends its money. If it behaves in a predictable, rule-bound manner, that’s good. The “rule of law” is good, very good. If it behaves in an arbitrary, discretionary manner, even if the scale of its operations is a lot smaller, that’s bad.

And the central point here is, if you disagree with this “opinion”, then Leon has a simple response to you. This is not an opinion; it is a fact. And you are ignorant of it. “We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.”

This publication, he says, is “an orgy of statistics”. Statistics like these ones, and I had the luck to ask about this, have become a lot easier to gather in the age of the internet, which alone might turn out to justify the internet, historically speaking. Simply, the internet makes it much easier to compare countries, and to see which ones are best, which worst, and why.

Plug endorsed by me. Minor in comparison with all these virtues, but a useful piece of information in the paper that is nonetheless worth noting: Starting at the end of page 24 of Mr Louw's paper and going on to page 25 there is a nice, clear explanation of why all increases in general prosperity also increase the "income gap" between rich and poor, this being a result of the greed and malice of the laws of mathematics.