Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion"

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, and reported the following:
I looked up Page 99 with some trepidation. It turns out to be the hinge page of the book. The previous 98 pages have been about diagnosis: why the countries now at the bottom of the world economy are stuck there. Page 99 summarizes this analysis and gives the punch line conclusion:

"A future world with a billion people living in impoverished and stagnant countries is just not a scenario we can countenance. A cesspool of misery next to a world of growing prosperity is both terrible for those in the cesspool and dangerous for those who live next to it."

If we can’t countenance it we have to figure out how best to do something about it. So, page 99 then launches in on the first of the four remedies that occupy the rest of the book. The first remedy is aid. I chose aid as the first not because I regard it is the most potent - I don’t - but because it has the highest profile. It attracts intense political disagreements. The left seems to see it as reparations for western guilt; the right seems to see it as welfare payments to corrupt scroungers. This emotive baggage gets in the way of straight-thinking. In the rest of the chapter I try to analyze aid dispassionately. I argue that although aid has serious limitations, it is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

If you get the book, you’ll see why I am relieved that this wasn’t a test of page 98.
Visit the Oxford University Press website to learn more about The Bottom Billion and read more about Paul Collier's research at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue