The heart of development economics

The reason places like Africa are poor is not because of capitalism, exploitation, the residues of colonialization, or even the long, dark shadow of the slave trade. Nor is it poor even because of idiotic socialism or the propensity of politicians to run off with the national treasury. You can blame any selection of those as you wish, and with some of them you’d even be right, but they are all proximate causes. The ultimate reason is simply that poor places are using less productive technologies, richer ones more productive. All of those varied things can be blamed for reducing the use of more advanced technologies, but it is the lack of technological advance itself that causes the poverty.

65 comments on “The heart of development economics

  1. But why are they using less productive technologies? The best explanation seems to be corrupt officials diminishing potential returns to investment. Western governments or NGOs can’t fix that.

  2. Indeed, a chicken & egg problem. To afford the more productive technologies, more productive technologies are needed to produce the surplus production to provide capital..But other parts of the world have leveraged themselves up out of poverty into prosperity. often with less outside aid than Africa’s received. Africa’s even got the RSA leveraging itself down from prosperity to poverty, following the example of Zimbabwe which has already achieved the feat.
    Worth looking behind the reason AndrewM’s suggested & asking another why. Likeliest explanation is that Africans are just not very good at working together for the common good. Poor investors, themselves. Their time preference discount rates are very steep. (Is that the economic term I’m looking for?)

  3. umm…

    except that some of them *had* the more productive technologies and chose not to use them for some of the reasons offered…

    Just take a look at the railway yards at Apapa, Lagos (the <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?source=s_q&hl=en&geocode&ie=UTF8&g=lagos%2C%20nigeria&msa=0&ll=6.452763615072638%2C3.3703748507737146&spn=108.274147%2C158.203125&z=16&mid=1M-B_QUb9Mpu58uDs5X7kVZb9vGM"diagonal green bit across the middle)

    The Chinese are supposed to be renovating Nigerian railways ….

  4. Discount rates, yes. But then Europe developed with very much higher real interest rates (the inverse of discount rates and determined by the same thing) than today. So not entirely that.

    One good argument can be culled from Tim Newman’s reporting on Nigeria. Private property, as in that of the nuclear family, seems not to exist. Any good fortune – luck or actual fortune – must be shared with the very widest possible definition of the kinship network. The effect will be very much like sky high interest or discount rates. A slightly different reason though. Even Marx’s primitive accumulation isn’t going to work there let alone that Calvinist stuff about investing for the future etc.

    Can approach it another way too – primogeniture was rather more important to development than some seem to think. Allowed, maintained even, concentrations of capital.

  5. Incidentally, this is a behaviour I see with S. Americans who’ve come from pronounced poverty. It’s a learned behaviour. If you’ve never seen much benefit to striving for a better future – often they don’t because the wealth they’re trying to accumulate gets taken away from them – you don’t do the striving. But S. Americans, transposed to a modern Northern economy, rapidly learn to accumulate capital & use it. In a generation or less they change their entire pattern of behaviour. S.America, itself has plenty of fast growing economies – when they get their politics right.
    But this isn’t a behaviour you see in people of African descent. Even after living in high productivity economies for several generations, they have difficulty of escaping the poverty trap. You can hardly put it all down to discrimination because there’s plenty of other groups have experienced discrimination & overcome it

  6. “Any good fortune – luck or actual fortune – must be shared with the very widest possible definition of the kinship network.”
    Yes, Tim, but you’d have to ask why they’re doing that. It needn’t be a compulsory behaviour.
    My guess is it’s a status seeking trait. The provider enhances his status amongst the immediate circle. Again, it’s a short period reward cycle. And much the same goes on with the S.Americans. Those who prosper come under pressure to distribute the largess across the kinship network. And with S.Americans those can be pretty extensive. I guess it’s common behaviour in societies experience poverty. I’ve heard similar from mates got involved with people from S.E. Asia. Others seem to be able to handle it. Why not Africans?

  7. Of course it’s not simple but there’s some interesting points about lack of navigable rivers and high costs of trading across land in Prisoners of Geography. It’s one of the reasons the Chinese are investing so much in infrastructure.

    Trade also leads to a build up of trust, something severely lacking in Africa. Without trust institutions fail and communities have to rely on alpha males and concentrations of power, which attract the unscrupulous. We’re seeing that happening is small ways here with our increase in self serving politicians who’ll do anything to stay in power.

  8. The kinship sharing is a thing in Nigeria – and to an oyibo it can look very strange indeed.

    Public shared assets / institutions ostensibly set up for the common good is a concept that struggles to thrive in Africa.

    The port railway in Lagos hasn’t worked since independence and the area is gridlocked with dangerously modified + overloaded trucks – mostly fuel tankers…. Nigeria still does not have an oil refinery ….

  9. Africans have unique characteristics, a closeness to nature giving them the insight to cut through all the supposed gains of modern technology and get back to a natural state of grace and oneness with the environment. This is the ultimate sustainable society that so many western people, beset with modern-day angst, aspire to. Well done Africa, we are on our way to join you!

  10. One historical puzzle I’ve never seen answered satisfactorily is the absence of the wheel when Europeans first explored central and southern Africa. Not even for pottery. It isn’t as though the Bantu were unaware of its existence. No beasts of burden either. The great migrations of the 19th century, driven by population pressure, were all accomplished on foot. It took the introduction of the motor car to change that. America isn’t the only place that’s in love with the automobile.

  11. One thing that’s occured to me is that compared to many other plces, Africa doesn’t have “community” states, the land and people are still in the arbitary blocks chopped up by the Europeans. In other places states formed as a community within that state, so there was a cohesiveness and togetherness of interest. When half your people are in another state, and your state is run by “others”, it hard for communities to build the self-cohesive structures that makes for post-medival states.

  12. Blacks lack greed?

    But as Rhoda says, why would they want more? Is our faux concern for them just colonialism? I for one don’t care what sub Saharan Africans are doing, as long as they don’t threaten me.

    They don’t have flush toilets? Why should I care? Oh, but flush toilets are so superior to a privy that we MUST want it for them. We must help them with water security.

    The Prime Directive: leave indigenous people alone.

  13. ‘Africa is using America’s industrial farming techniques to get rich’

    Techniques? Capitalism is not a ‘technique.’

    AFRICA? Africa is a continent. It isn’t fvcking doing anything.

  14. No discussion of sub Saharan Africans is complete without mentioning tribalism. Unity never extends beyond a small group of people.

    Black race baiters are diligent in exploiting it.

  15. I think that is rather misleading . It was the Soviet theory that value was created by machines in factories but as anyone in business knows you can work hard and produce the best thingummy going …If you can`t sell it you have achieved nothing.
    It would not achieve anything to drop a load of technology into a developing country what has achieved results are NGO`s ( yes those do gooders you despise) raising educational standards and providing health care .
    The other thing has been market economics
    African is actually getting richer longer lived and smarter fast its just that from the vantage point of the West it often looks just like more poverty
    There is much more good news than people think generally , educational levels of life expectancy have gone up sharply in Afghanistan …that doesn`t often get a mention

    The future looks good its only Trump Brexit … European Fascists and assorted self harming loons determined to make life shit

  16. There was an early PG wodehouse book, a farce about a clueless gent setting up a chicken farm to get rich. Good subject for a light hearted film comedy i would say. But would setting it elsewhere with a clueless african gent fall fowl of the PC brigade? (intended. sorry)

  17. All of those varied things can be blamed for reducing the use of more advanced technologies, but it is the lack of technological advance itself that causes the poverty.

    Bullshit. Pure, unadulterated, fleeing from the actual problem bullshit.

    Large swaths of Africa cannot master the most basic of technologies. Hence you have rich Western countries forever showing up to have a go at getting them closer to providing for themselves on a level that the US and Europe mastered centuries ago. And often without success. I’m 61 and rich ‘Mericans have been trying to teach Africans how to develop and maintain safe and efficient water supply systems since I was in elementary school… and earlier.

    As Paul Johnson said decades ago, the bane of Africa is tribalism. As someone who has been dealing with African immigrants for over a decade and a half, all I can say is he is completely correct.

    Somalia (to name but one example) is a shithole country because (much like Europeans) Somalians never forget and never learn. Rather than build a workable country, they’ll fight each other over the fact that 800 years, Ahmed of one tribe thought Abdul from another tribe stole one of his goats. Take those same Somalis and plop them in the middle of the USA – where they cannot indulge their homegrown idiocies – and they thrive.

  18. Technological advance is the result of economic activity. You cannot have the sort of economic activity necessary for meaningful technological advance with economic (ie, societal) stability.

  19. “The ultimate reason is simply that poor places are using less productive technologies, richer ones more productive.

    No, the ultimate reason is culture (perhaps genetics below that, but I’m really not sure).

    More productive technology in the hands of most Africans will rapidly become less productive. This is not speculative.

  20. True, Dennis. Advancement must be evolutionary, not revolutionary. You can’t drop a ton of new technology on people; they must adopt a piece at a time and continue adding pieces over time.

    ‘There is much more good news than people think generally’

    Why on earth would that be good news? What goes on in places like sub Saharan Africa is none of my business.

  21. Western aid to Africa is destructive.

    https://capitalresearch.org/article/bono-wants-to-save-the-world-but-he-needs-your-money-to-do-it/

    ‘Much of the money spent on aid to Africa is simply wasted. Just ask Paul Theroux, a volunteer Peace Corps teacher who first arrived in Malawi more than 45 years ago. In a withering critique of the Western aid establishment in general and Bono in particular (“The Rock Star’s Burden,” NewYork Times, December 15, 2005), Theroux argues that “the impression that Africa is fatally troubled and can be saved only by outside help … is a destructive and misleading conceit,” that does lasting harm to Africans by fostering a culture of dependence and helplessness, while raising the public profiles and satisfying the outsized egos of celebrities and politicians.’

  22. Martin Sewell – correct.

    The good news is, improvements in diet can raise a population’s average IQ to some degree. (Some of the lowest IQ’s in Africa are linked to childhood malnutrition)

    The bad news is, nature trumps nurture most of the time, so it’s not likely they’ll be sending missions to Alpha Centauri anytime soon. In fact, as the New South Africa moves closer to its inevitable genocide of their white population, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more tearful begging charity ads in future. (“We raped and killed the people who used to feed us, won’t you send £2 a month?”)

    Maybe Theresa May can dance their troubles away though.

  23. The Chinese are supposed to be renovating Nigerian railways ….

    Swiftly followed by the Nigerian government having to hand over control of their oilfields/ports to the Chinee when they inevitably default on their loans. And then the railways fall apart anyway.

  24. Take those same Somalis and plop them in the middle of the USA – where they cannot indulge their homegrown idiocies – and they thrive.

    The idea that the Somali community is “thriving” in the US is complete bullshit. They have low rates of labor force participation, high rates of crime and terrorism and use fantastic amounts of state aid. If this is thriving, I’d hate to see what “not thriving” looks like.

    https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/03/costs-of-the-somali-community.php

  25. JerryC –

    Come on over to Columbus and I’ll show you one.

    What you missed in the Powerline article was the obvious: The Somali communities of Minnesota are consuming more resources because the Democratic politicians in power in Minneapolis and at the state level are throwing those resources at them in order to buy votes. They are working on the old African-American vote strategy… Get them dependent on government cheese to get their votes. That ain’t happening here.

    The Powerline boys hate Democrats and hate Muslims, so you aren’t going to hear much about success from them.

  26. @JerryC – thanks for that, I was going to query the Somali ‘thriving’ too, because they certainly aren’t in the UK*. They are by some margin and despite stiff competition, the most burdensome and useless immigrant group.

    *no doubt DTP would say this is because one set of wogs can’t educate another.

  27. When I was younger, there were times in my life when I was theoretically eligible for resources to be bunged at me.

    Maybe it’s because I am a white bastard, but I did not take up that eligibility, and my vote has never been bought.

    Go me.

    Btw, I’ve dealt professionally with no end of Somalis. Not just one. I do not recall one who was not a burden on the taxpayer, quite aside from his wanton propensity to violence, or her indolence.

  28. Tim Newman @1:14pm

    aye … they’ve a few gas processing plants too. There were moves to reduce the flaring of gas which was absolutely epic – and commented on by the ISS crews …

    There are quite a few derelict cement plants as well – I heard the cement monopoly find it easier to control if it all arrives in bags at Apapa.

    When I was there a few years back there was a particularly sad failure of a farming scheme run by white Zimbabweans

  29. Steve@3:47pm

    – I think that’s the plan

    It’ll be interesting to watch the tussle when the Nigerians inevitably try to renege on the deal.

    Venezuela it ain’t

  30. A quote from the Powerline article I found interesting

    “We don’t even have a handle on how large the community is. The official estimate (there is no official number) is something like 40,000, but the United States Attorney’s Office here used an estimate of 100,000 in its formal written agreement with Somali community leaders to undertake the so-called Building Community Resilience program.”

    What is it when mathematics meets Somalis? Some sort of trans-dimentional thing? I can remember, some years ago, when the London Borough of Newham was claiming to be housing 280% of the UK’s Somali community.

    And. “quite aside from his wanton propensity to violence” You’re not wrong, M’Lud. Word on the street has it even the Jamaican Yardies, not exactly shrinking violets themselves, give a wide berth to the Somali gangs. Turf has been fought over & lost.

  31. *no doubt DTP would say this is because one set of wogs can’t educate another.

    Untrue. I’d simply suggest that as it stands it’s more difficult for anyone to thrive in the UK than in the USA.

  32. Ah, you know one Somali who’s doing well, therefore Somalis are thriving in ‘Murica. Great logic. Maybe you should stick to accounting.

  33. Indeed, Mr in Spain. But it’s all relative, as our multiculti chums like to say.

    If you’re a demented pensioner living in a small community in the Fens then, currently, pikeys are your (or more likely your childrens’) worst fear.

    If you’re anyone even remotely decent and law-abiding and living in Woolwich, the Somalis are ditto.

    Peckham and Croydon, it’s Afro-Caribeans.

    Haringey, Tottenham, Edmonton, it’s Turks and Kurds.

    The East Midlands and Bristol, it’s the Paks.

    I may be a little out of date, I don’t do much of that kind of work now, and anyway, there are overlaps and turf wars which makes a clear patchwork quilt little more than an aspiration. But you get the picture. I’ve probably dealt with 50 to 100 cases involving Somalis, and I am just one London lawyer.

    The scale of imported delinquency is staggering. Go to any magistrates’ court, the length and breadth of Britain and I defy anyone, on surveying the listed names of miscreants, not to be amazed by the numbers of Abduls, Mohammeds, and so on. Just look for a Surtees, or an Urquhart.

    I do not believe the official stats on actual immigrants, but even if I did, they punch so far above their weight in matters of violence and dishonesty that the absence of riot and revolution by whitey means, in my view, that we’re done. We’ve given up.

    The response, when I speak to friends and relatives outside the bubble of the Metrop, or otherwise unaffected by this, is to the effect that they’ll be dead by the time their village is taken over. The fuckers apparently don’t consider their nieces, nephews and grandchildren. And anyway, it’ll all be all right.

    Ultimately, the causes of different races and nations behaving as they do are, to me, irrelevant. What matters is that our ruling class encourages and facilitates the importation of mass delinquency, resulting in carnage, maiming and immiseration on a scale which I do not believe has been documented, but which undoubtedly exceeds the effects of the Blitz.

    And, Dennis, give me a loud-mouthed white bread Septic, an inscrutable Nip who cannot say ‘no’, or even, in extremis, a cheese-eating surrender monkey sneering at our national passtime of somehow getting plastic bags into trees, any day of the week, over the dregs, cut-throats, pimps and neck-or-nothings of the Dirt World.

    Somalis, Pikeys, Afros, Paks, Ghanaians, Turks, Syrians, Albanians … they’ve all been a disaster.

  34. @M’Lud,

    I think it is fair to point out, however, that your clients are not exactly made up of a representative cross-section of society.

    If I can add one anecdatal success story, there is a little corner of Moss Side, Princess and Claremont for the few who know, that was utterly transformed by the arrival of a large influx of recent Somali immigrants (it is no longer quite so Somali-dominated). What was one of the grottiest parts of a grotty borough became suddenly rather nicer. And safer. Whether the latter had anything to do with the new arrivals being even more violent than the gangs they drove before them, I couldn’t say.

  35. Pfft. The thing is, importing Somalians into the UK doesn’t and won’t ever make them into Brits, but it will make the area they congregate in into Somalia. Even without the baleful effects of Islam, Somalians have a vicious, clannish, thuggish, ingroup/outgroup hatred of anyone and anything that isn’t Somalian. Lud is right. Why import trouble if you don’t have to?

  36. Ah, you know one Somali who’s doing well, therefore Somalis are thriving in ‘Murica. Great logic. Maybe you should stick to accounting.

    I see. You decided to take my colloquialism and bend it until it fit your purposes. Clever. My bad for speaking American to a wog and expecting comprehension.

    In actuality, I have three Somali immigrant (all now citizens) clients who qualify as multi-millionaires. About a dozen and a half of more earn low to mid-ranger six figure incomes. About two dozen others (all young men in their 20s to early 30s) more earn high five figures at this time, and who will all end up millionaires if they stay on the track they presently are on.

    Then there are multi-millionaire, millionaire and six-figure earners that I know but who are not clients.

    Got a grasp of the situation now?

  37. Mr in G, I know.

    But if an audit were capable of being conducted (which I doubt, given the gummint’s tendency to keep such data to itself), how do you compensate, say, 10,000 burglary victims, 12,000 stab victims, the relatives of 5,000 actual murders?

    You tell them there’s a self-made Somali millionnaire living in St John’s Wood, employing 30 people?

    To me, it sounds like the punchline to a joke in acutely poor taste.

  38. Somaliland is an interesting example. Isolated from international aid by being a non-recognised break-away region of Somalia, it has built itself from the ground up by itself, becoming one of the most stable, non-authoritarian, democratic “countries” of East Africa. One study has explicitly attributed it to, amongst other factors, “absence of interference by outside forces”.

  39. Even without the baleful effects of Islam, Somalians have a vicious, clannish, thuggish, ingroup/outgroup hatred of anyone and anything that isn’t Somalian.

    Ever stop to think that perhaps much of that is due to the baleful effects of British (European) “assimilation” methods? You fuck up everything from economic growth to job creation to meaningful policing to defending your culture. Why wouldn’t you fuck up assimilation?

  40. How are your blacks coming along, Dennis?

    I heard they’ve been a big success.

    But enough willy-waving. Why are you here? Sometimes, I think it’s because you care.

  41. Plus, and it’s a big plus, there are no Mexican warlords or gangsters in America. None at all.

    I think I might move there. It’s significantly less rogered than dear old Blighty.

    On the other hand, I’m beginning to think the more benighted parts of Yurp show promise: no immigrants wants to move there.

  42. There’s no need to get all defensive Edward… PJF and JerryC are handling that chore admirably. If you want to make yourself useful, trying giving an answer to the last question I asked.

  43. @bloke in spain, December 28, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Likeliest explanation is that Africans are just not very good at working together for the common good. Poor investors, themselves. Their time preference discount rates are very steep. (Is that the economic term I’m looking for?)

    That’s my theory too. Not popular and accused of racism.

    RSA (Coal) Power Station construction project bears this out – workers bugger off when earned enough for a few days-week and don’t return until penniless. Project years behind schedule, should have been completed > 1 year ago.

  44. @Tim Worstall, December 28, 2018 at 9:23 am

    primogeniture was rather more important to development than some seem to think

    Good point. French farms an example.

  45. Aggressively circular, Dennis Old Scout. And why the aggressive? Chill. It’s our problem*.

    You ask us about Yurpean assimilation methods (non-existant, btw, as are yours), then I suggest you’ve got the same problem (which is, um … true)), to which your answer is: answer *my* question!

    Narp, as Steve would say. You are, as SE once said, a daft old cunt. So jog on, until you’ve got something useful to say.

    Most of us here know what our problems are. In the meantime, you’re just acting the part of the flatulent twerp.

    But you care don’t you, you daft old bint?

  46. Good to see you rise to the occasion, Edward.

    If our assimilation methods are identical to yours, why aren’t there grooming gangs in Minneapolis and large numbers of acid attacks in Boston? And if you can find the sort of massive Muslim slums that adorn Paris anywhere in the USA, please mention it.

    Assimilation rests largely on the four variables I mentioned above: economic growth, job creation, pro-active policing and a robust defense of one’s culture. All areas where grand old Britain falls short. And instead of trying to puzzle it out, your response, along with the rest of the non-daft, non-old, non-bints, was little more than “Darkies BAD!”

    And that’s why you are where you are.

    You state you know what your problems are. Bullshit.

    I piss you off because I call you on your bullshit… You don’t have a fucking clue and don’t want to be reminded of it.

    If you did, by the way, you’d have a Trump, or a yellow vest, or you’d be burning cars on Downing Street. As it is, you can’t even get your fucking government to honor the results of the election they called on exiting the EU. But by all means, carry the fuck on.

    Cattle. Led by sheep.

  47. I raise you Detroit and Chicago, Dennis. No darkie probs there.

    And that caravan.

    And… Oh, but this is silly. The annals of this blog are full of Brits bemoaning latter-day Brittishness and it’s causes. And full of you going “bwahaha”. I think you do it because you fancy us really. But it’s not we who deny the awfulness of our situation.

    You’re projecting.

  48. MS13. Presumably dear Dennis agrees with the Dems there’s no problem there.

    Not sure I’ve seen a Fentanyl headline in the Daily Mail.

  49. Used to occasionally drink in a pub where the landlady was an ex-prostitute and many of the local girls used to come i there for a break and a quiet drink, recall that when the Somalis moved in there was a lot of complaints, especially about violence. They thought paying meant they could do whatever they liked and the general opinion was they were a nasty bunch of shits and it was better to turn down the business most of the time

  50. Hispanics per se in Texas and New Mexico do not have an effect on the culture. All of the border states were Mexico before they were taken over by the anglos by fair means or foul.

  51. The annals of this blog are full of Brits bemoaning latter-day Brittishness and it’s causes.

    And you never get the causes right. Never.

  52. PJF –

    You’ll never understand this, but I’ll say it anyway.

    The fight here as just begun. It’s going to be a long hard slog and there will be plenty of setbacks. Most of those who voted for Donald Trump understand that completely.

    The fact that you feel compelled to cherry-pick specific failures in that fight simply underscores how spineless you are. You’d rather bitch than fight, rather moan that work.

    You’re the one in the boat whining that we’re all gonna die.

    Jesus Christ, you can’t even man up to the level of the The French.

  53. @Dennis the Menace, December 29, 2018 at 12:09 am

    why aren’t there grooming gangs in Minneapolis and large numbers of acid attacks in Boston?

    There probably are, but Pols & msm covering up same as in Aus, Canada, EU, UK….

    Robust defence of one’s culture is imo most important area and Britain doesn’t fall short – it doesn’t believe in it at Gov’t/Stat level.

  54. Meh, it’s all evolution in action. The tribes formed and dispersed, now the tribes are re-uniting, intermarrying and forming new tribes. I stole that, from Jack Vance I think.

    My experience is that Canadian natives / aboriginals / Indians, whatever I am to call them, are stupidly tribal, much like the Africans supposedly are. Plus violent to boot.

    If one succeeds, either in employment or even in renting a decent home, all of his brethren and cousins to the nth degree turn up to mooch and cannot and will not be turned away. They destroy his success.

    But here’s my question. Who can say these traits are bad or good? Civilization is so far short and hence to be distrusted by mother nature as a dangerous experiment.

    Perhaps violent, stupid, mooching tribalists are the real key to humanity’s survival.

    For damn sure it’s not likely to be keyboard kommandos like us.

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