Saturday, December 5, 2009

Konczal on Karelis (and Bill Easterly is an Idiot)

Book review here.

I haven't read it yet, but just ordered it based on the review. As there are really a very small numbers of books or papers worth reading which can tell you something interesting about why some countries are rich and why others are poor, I look forward to the book's arrival.

I'm not going to get my hopes up, like I did when I saw this out of Bill Easterly. The title "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?*" and abstract sound interesting:
"We assemble a dataset on technology adoption in 1000
B.C., 0 A.D., and 1500 A.D. for the predecessors to
today’s nation states. We find that this very old history of
technology adoption is surprisingly significant for today’s
national development outcomes. Although our strongest
results are for 1500 A.D., we find that even technology as
old as 1000 BC is associated with today’s outcomes in
some plausible specifications."

This sounds plausible -- after all, Eurasia certainly led technologically in 1000AD, with Africa 2nd, the Americas 3rd, and Australasia 4th... Today, very few Australasians are even alive, native Americans are sparse in the temperate American countries, and the world is really almost completely dominated by Eurasians. To me, this confirms Diamond. Not to Easterly. He kills the latitude dummy in a growth regression by including variables which: (1) give Europe especially high marks, (2) give a 1 for the rich Neo-Europes and zero otherwise, (3) give a 1 to the poor neo-Europes. Like a complete fool, he then pronounces that: "the association of latitude and current development is not invariably causal and direct." But of course, the reason the latitude dummy is big is b/c of Europe and the Neo-Europes located far from the equator, which he coded as the rich Neo-Europes, apparently not noticing that Canada, the US, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are all located far away from the equator.

All you need to know about the paper is in the references: Easterly has not read Crosby. He has not read Diamond 1993. You cannot do research in this field if you are ignorant of Alfred Crosby and Jared Diamond's best work. (Or rather, you can still do and publish research only b/c this field is still in the Dark Ages, but you cannot do good work.)

Karelis, don't let me down!

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