Category Archives: ideas

me at ideas, you at debate

On Norway

Can we find a reason for the Norwegian tragedy? Northern European societies are considered among the most tolerant worldwide. Newton’s third law of dynamics states that for each action corresponds an equal and opposite reaction. Can we transfer this principle to sociology? The “Christian” terrorist who killed more than 90 people is a product of the tolerant Norwegian society indeed. Is his action the price that Norway paid to be so open and multicultural? I’m not a sociologist and I know that it is easy and dangerous to simplify in social sciences. However, what I believe is that Norway (and all Scandinavian countries) should prevent in the future these events without giving into the blackmail of the violence. That is, without renouncing to principles of tolerance, freedom and open multiculturalism which, maybe, contributed to determine the equal and opposite reaction on Utoeya island and in Oslo’s center.

I apologise if I offended anyone with my trivial analysis – all my solidarity goes to Norwegian people.

Einstein today

We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Above, two extracts from an article by Albert Einstein written in 1949. In this, you can enjoy the greatness of a complete thinker, gifted with the ability to decompose the complexity of the society and give back a consistent theory of it. What would be his analysis of our society/ies? Is it possible to re-think socialism nowadays, really inspired by solidarity among human beings? Where do we locate the Chinese model in this debate?

Pesticides, IQ, social climbing – A pesticide poverty trap

Two different studies by Berkelay and Columbia university confirm that children of women who assumed food with pesticides during their pregnancy, after 7 year from birth, perform worse in IQ tests than peer whose mothers ate free-pesticide food in the same period. The researchers controlled for eduction and environmental elements which could bias the results, too. Unfortunately, the paper is not downloadable freely (it would be interesting to analyse for some selection bias issues). As a development economist, I am concerned with poverty issues. That is, it is likely that poorer families are more exposed to pesticides than wealthier ones, pushing poorer children into a pesticide poverty trap which does not allow (at best, obstacles) them to social climbing. Especially, I am thinking to developing countries or BRICS, where need for growth could lead government to subside cropping technologies which spur agricultural productivity at the expense of health conditions.

When will China overtake USA, truly?

Yao Yang on Project Syndicate about the issues emerging when comparing China’s and US’ economies in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). Complex concepts, tough explained so neatly. Enjoy it!

Berlusconi’s defeat in local elections – The end of an era?

Belusconi’s empire in Italy seems at its end. In mayors’ elections, his party (PDL) lost a symbol of the Italian right wing, Milan, the Italian economic capital (PM’s home town, too!). The end of an era, maybe. However, nothing can erase the fact that he ruled Italy for almost 2 decades, influencing with his conflict of interest and numerous charges, his verbal violence and his populism. Berlusconi is one among the cause of Italian decadence nowadays, but it was the effect of the of the empty spaces left from politics in the 90s. Now, a new approach is necessary. Politics has to find its lost nobility in Italy (perhaps, not only in Italy), without spirit of revenge or deafness towards opponents’ reasons, though building a dialectic and democratic dialogue, based on shared principles, written in our Constitution.

The Italian vote on: Bloomerg, BBC, CNN, La RepubblicaIl Giornale.

To Practice 7 – I’m not the World Bank

Before starting my Nicaraguan experience, dreams of glory flooded my ego. Reviewing all my studies on data collection, I knew it would have been a priority to collect data from households survey as fast as possible. Because interviewing the first household of the community today and the last one in 6-months time means introducing a significant source of bias in the research, especially in rural economies subject to seasonality. However, I’m realising that I was naive. Because we’re just two interviewers, because I didn’t consider my stomach could have left me in my room for one entire week, because I go to and from the community using my stick, not my jeep. In other words, because I’m not the World Bank, nor Indiana Jones. To sum up, my goal is to have enough large control group to match with the treatment of the households who participate to a micro credit scheme – the ‘Small Business Program. I have two possibilities: surrendering to the extended collection time bias or opting for a second best solution. I’m trying to move toward the second option. In parallel with the community survey, I’m working with students of a technical high school to assess the program Education That Pays For Itself, run by the English NGO, Teach A Man To Fish. Among the NGO’s outcomes of interests, there is the socioeconomic condition of the students’ families. Hence, I’ training the students to interview their families (belonging to other communities though), in order to increase quickly the treatment group. Therefore, I can focus my interviews in the community on treatment group mainly, shortening the data collection timing, and getting information on students’ families. The assumption is that from the students’ families, coming from rural background in Nicaragua, a PSM approach will allow me to select part of my control group. I fancy to better solutions…

P.S. Edgar, I know you’re thinking about the horse!

To practice 6 – Ex Post Considerations on Vulnerability Measurement

After carrying out and attending several interviews, questions are arising in me about the vulnerability section. Vulnerability – considered in my study “the magnitude of the threat of future poverty” (Calvo and Dercon 2005, p.5) – is a complex concept, indeed enriching a poverty profile.


A man who was shot in an armed robbery 3 months ago, told me his level of worry for being assaulted in the future is very low, a woman who hasn’t been assaulted in the last 5 years, stated is extremely worried of being assaulted in the future.

Now, let’s put apart probabilistic calculations and think in a mere qualitative way, how do we compare their different levels of perceived vulnerability to assaults? Measuring the poverty ex-ante, a real challenge. Literature on this issue is warmly welcomed, I need a reliable vulnerability index…