First up, John Kay offers a good critique of Wilkinson and Picket’s treatise on inequality The Spirit Level. To be fair, Wilkinson’s previous book on inequality contained a lot more statistical detail than Spirit Level, so I don’t think Kay’s critique on that particular issue is completely on target. And Spirit Level contains a lot more evidence than you’d think from the review. Nevertheless, a worthwhile read.
Via Duncan Green, MIT’s Poverty Action give the low down on the impact of charging for health services in developing countries. The short story: “Charging even very small user fees sharply limits access to preventive health care.”
Meanwhile in Colombia…for a while there, in what would have been a truly remarkable result, Colombia looked to be on track to electing Green Party candidate and innovative former mayor of Bogota Antanas Mockus as its president. Alas, while Mockus has made it to the second round, he now seems very unlikely to win.
George Monbiot pillories Matt Ridley. It’s a pity, I really liked Nature via Nurture but Ridley’s latest effort sees him extolling the virtues of teh Free Markets, despite the fact that investors in the bank which Ridley was chair of the board of were only saved from loosing everything by – wait for it – the state. Now there’s a market triumph for you.
Last weekend, Andrew Anthony’s lurvee report on latest anti-aid celebrity Linda Polman left me wondering whether I shouldn’t cancel my subscription to the Guardian Weekly. Not because humanitarian aid shouldn’t be subject to criticism but rather because journalists should either aim for the truth or at the very least be balanced. Anthony does neither. Fortunately, the ODI do a lot better [PDF] and provide a balanced assessment of Polman’s claims and the dilemmas of humanitarian operations.
Flying Rodent offers grim satire on the Gaza piece flotilla affair, with the second to last paragraph providing a succinct and depressing summary of where we’re currently at.
It’s been clear for years that the Israeli right is utterly dependent on the looniest fringe of Palestinian society for their power and legitimacy, and that both sets of nutters use violence against the other as a means to cementing their rule. The basic situation over there is that both Hamas and the Israeli government are committed to policies that harm their populations but ensure their own continued rule. It’s a godawful, mutual death spiral that’s heading in precisely the wrong direction.
On both sides years of violence have empowered the violent – and peace seems a long, long way off.
And finally, to end on a kind of positive note, even though you’ve almost certainly already seen it, here’s Han’s Rolings graphical history of modernity.