Eyes on Guatemala

The Economist has published an article on malnutrition in Guatemala. Hunger is not new in the country, with half of the children population not eating enough Guatemala is the six-worst country in the world, but in some Maya communities children chronic malnutrition can reach 75% (the Economist says 80%). These figures are astonishing, especially because the problem is not food scarcity.

But this as well is hardly new. It was 1981 when Amartya Sen published his Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation demonstrating that hunger is mostly caused by inequality rather than scarcity. There is no lack of food in Guatemala if you have the money to buy it. In Guatemala City is taking place, as we speak, the 14th Festival Gastronómico Internacional so it seems difficult to talk about a famine or about an emergency (according to the Longman Dictionary an emergency is “an unexpected and dangerous situation that must be dealt with immediately”). The problem is the lack of a functioning state. Because a state cannot function with tax revenues estimated at just 10% of GDP.

Democracy is highly unrepresentative in Guatemala. Who should push for a better redistribution of resources has no voice. National newspapers point constantly the finger at the government (presidency, parliament, judiciary) in a impressive campaign of delegitimation. The Rosenberg tape was just part of it. I’m not defending the government, but saying that criticising it and attempting to systematically destroy its credibility are not quite the same thing. While the headlines cover crime, corruption and hunger the real battle within the country is on the tax reform. A battle that so far every government has badly lost.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Understanding Capitalism

Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen argues, in an article published on The New York Review of Books, that the way out from the crisis passes through a better understanding of the ideas that contributed to build the actual economic system. Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Cecil Pigou, should be read, not just quoted. And I quote

Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice. If we were to look for a new approach to the organization of economic activity that included a pragmatic choice of a variety of public services and well-considered regulations, we would be following rather than departing from the agenda of reform that Smith outlined as he both defended and criticized capitalism.

We must understand how institutions work and make them work better. But not just aiming at economic growth.

There is a critical need for paying special attention to the underdogs of society in planning a response to the current crisis, and in going beyond measures to produce general economic expansion.

A crisis not only presents an immediate challenge that has to be faced. It also provides an opportunity to address long-term problems when people are willing to reconsider established conventions. This is why the present crisis also makes it important to face the neglected long-term issues like conservation of the environment and national health care, as well as the need for public transport (…).

Sunday, 22 March 2009

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RSS r-bloggers.com

  • Tips for great graphics
    R is a great program for generating top-notch graphics. But to get the best out of it, you need to put in a little more work. Here are a few tips for adapting your R graphics to make them look a little better. 1) Dont use the “File/Save as…/” menu. If you set up your […]
  • WVPlots now at version 1.0.0 on CRAN!
    Nina Zumel and I have been working on packaging our favorite graphing techniques in a more reusable way that emphasizes the analysis task at hand over the steps needed to produce a good visualization. We are excited to announce the WVPlots is now at version 1.0.0 on CRAN! The idea is: we sacrifice some of […]
  • Reflections on the ROpenSci Unconference
    I had an amazing time this week participating in the 2018 ROpenSci Unconference, the sixth annual ROpenSci hackathon bringing together people to advance the tools and community for scientific computing with R. It was so inspiring to be among such a talented and dedicated group of people — special kudos goes to the organizing committee […]
  • How to plot with patchwork
    INTRODUCTION The goal of patchwork is to make it simple to combine separate ggplots into the same graphic. As such it tries to solve the same problem as gridExtra::grid.arrange() and cowplot::plot_grid but using an API that incites exploration and iteration. Installation You can install patchwork from github with: # install.packages("devtools") devtools::install_github("thomasp85/patchwork") The usage of patchwork […]
  • Programmatically creating text output in R – Exercises
    In the age of Rmarkdown and Shiny, or when making any custom output from your data you want your output to look consistent and neat. Also, when writing your output you often want it to obtain a specific (decorative) format defined by the html or LaTeX engine. These exercises are an opportunity to refresh our […]

RSS Simply Statistics

  • Context Compatibility in Data Analysis
    All data arise within a particular context and often as a result of a specific question being asked. That is all well and good until we attempt to use that same data to answer a different question within a different context. When you match an existing dataset with a new question, you have to ask […]
  • Awesome postdoc opportunities in computational genomics at JHU
    Johns Hopkins is a pretty amazing place to do computational genomics right now. My colleagues are really impressive, for example five of our faculty are part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and we have faculty across a range of departments including Biostatistics, Computer Science, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Human Genetics. A number of my colleagues are […]
  • Rethinking Academic Data Sharing
    The sharing of data is one of the key principles of reproducible research (the other one being code sharing). Using the data and code a researcher has used to generate a finding, other researchers can reproduce those findings and examine the process that lead to them. Reproducibility is critical for transparency, so that others can […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  • Click here to find out how these 2 top researchers hyped their work in a NYT op-ed!
    Gur Huberman pointed me to this NYT op-ed entitled “Would You Go to a Republican Doctor?”, written by two professors describing their own research, that begins as follows: Suppose you need to see a dermatologist. Your friend recommends a doctor, explaining that “she trained at the best hospital in the country and is regarded as […]
  • Write your congressmember to require researchers to publicly post their code?
    Stephen Cranney writes: For the past couple of years I have had an ongoing question/concern . . . In my fields (sociology and demography) much if not most of the published research is based on publicly available datasets; consequently, replicability is literally a simple matter of sending or uploading a few kilobytes of code text. […]
  • The Manager’s Path (book recommendation for new managers)
    I (Bob) was visiting Matt Hoffman (of NUTS fame) at Google in California a few weeks ago, and he recommended the following book: Camille Fournier. 2017. The Manager’s Path. O’Reilly. It’s ordered from being an employee, to being a tech lead, to managing a small team, to managing teams of teams, and I stopped there. […]