Monday, July 23, 2018

Kenneth A. Reinert's "No Small Hope"

Kenneth A. Reinert is Professor of Public Policy in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He is author of An Introduction to International Economics: New Perspective on the World Economy and co-author of Globalization for Development: Meeting New Challenges.

Reinert applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book No Small Hope: Towards the Universal Provision of Basic Goods and reported the following:
With some awkwardness, page 99 of No Small Hope: Towards the Universal Provision of Basic Goods falls on an endnote page. But let’s not have that be a deterrent to the page 99 test. The endnotes correspond to Chapter 5 on the basic good water. Water is described in that chapter as the “quintessential basic good,” noting that “if a person does not consume water for a week, he or she will most likely die.” Water is part of a lager set of basic goods and services that also includes food, sanitation, health services, education services, housing, electricity, and human security services. These are all basic goods in the sense that their provision meets objective human needs.

Page 99’s endnotes are largely about technological issues in the provision of clean water, including nanotechnology, desalination, reservoirs, and portable water filtration. Technology features in No Small Hope for each basic good and service but does so in ways that differ from some other notable books. The argument is that, while technology can be important, it does not necessarily solve the widespread basic goods provisions problems that exist in the world. This cautionary approach to technological “fixes” contrasts significantly with the views of technological optimists who tend to argue that the basic goods provision problem can not only be solved, but that we can expect an era of plentitude where much more than needs are fulfilled.

For example, No Small Hope argues that renewable energy source desalination (RES-DES) holds some real promise for the provision of clean water. But some of the relevant technologies are still being debated in research journals, and the disposal of salt brine can be both problematic and expensive. Therefore, while there we some real progress in RES-DES, the problem will not be “solved.”

Page 99 of No Small Hope: Towards the Universal Provision of Basic Goods provides a glimpse into a large set of problems touching upon technology, economics, ethics, and even human rights. Given continued population growth, climate change, and increased numbers of refugees, it is a set of problems that will force itself upon the world one way or another. It therefore deserves our immediate attention.
Learn more about No Small Hope at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue