Sunday Links

Teju Cole wrote a story for Twitter. A Piece of the Wall explores the desert spaces between Mexico and the United States and the ugly discourse around immigration; the direct and concise nature of the medium makes it all the more powerful. Cole talks about the piece here (H/T for both links to Tom from A View from the Cave).


I’ve been exploring Chris Blattman’s excellent advice for development students: Ten Things I Tell Undergraduates is a good place to start, but check out the sidebar for a wealth of helpful information.


Bill Easterly wrote The New Tyranny for Foreign Policy, based on his latest book, The Tyranny of Experts. I’m three chapters in, and so far its been a stimulating look at the history of ideas about development, and the conditions that make a paternalistic, rights-negating approach to development possible.


This is an old one but required reading: How To Write About Africa, by Binyavanga Wainaina.


On the state of economics: Michael Sandel calls for more explicit engagement with political philosophy in Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning. I think his argument is compelling. Dani Rodrik’s What is Wrong (And Right) in Economics is a reminder that many economists are already engaging in these kinds of questions.


On Venezuela, A Historic Low for El Nacional seems like a fairly innocuous story but is, I think, tremendously significant. Fans of liberal democracy find it easy to sympathise with the Venezuelan opposition. This is a timely reminder that elements of the opposition are as sensationalist, populist and closed off to genuine dialogue as the chavistas. 


LatAm Political Economy, Australian Democracy: What I’ve Been Reading

I’m about to start Honours-level Economics so everything I read is being torturously parsed for possible thesis topics. Lots of thought-provoking stuff here. Also lots of Latin America. Scroll down, non-latinophiles. There’s a depressing one for you at the bottom.


Jeffery R. Webber writes a sprawling but fascinating analysis of Bolivia’s economic policies and contesting ideologies for Jacobin magazine. Western commentators tend to ignore the fact that president Evo Morales’ team have pursued fairly orthodox policy despite the country’s close alignment with Venezuela and much of the government’s socialist rhetoric. Webber draws on a number of interviews and a great deal of theory to craft a really interesting analysis of the prevailing tensions. I’ll be reading it again.


Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla demolishes the myth of a century of Argentine decline, at least in terms of quantitative economic indicators. There’s probably an argument to be made for a century of political decline, and I’m not sure the causation is as cut-and-dried as he seems to suggest, but it’s a myth I’d kind of reflexively accepted as fairly compelling. I like being made to sit up and rethink things.


Four (at least tangentially) on Venezuela this week. Political Violence at a Glance link to some potentially interesting data on the outsourcing of government repression; Francisco Toro looks at the long-term development impacts of hurling petrodollars at the poor; Hector Schamis criticises Latin America’s forgetful left [sp], who ignore Venezuelan repression when many of them lived through state repression and human rights abuses themselves. Greg Weeks’ 15 Annoying Things About the Venezuelan Crisis is short, sweet, and pretty damn accurate.


If you care about Australian democracy Chloe Hooper’s Lives of the Magnates will make you very, very sad.

What I’ve Been Reading

Aid on the Edge of Chaos take a look at Philip Tetlock’s research on expert judgement and draws some compelling lessons for the development field.


Anthony Faramelli examines the Duggan inquest in the UK and what it tells us about the politics of fear and security in the post-9/11 world:

the pre-​emptive doc­trine util­ized by state sponsored man­hunts works be­cause the non-​existence of what has not ac­tu­ally happened, but might one day happen be­comes more real than reality due to the af­fective nature of fear. The felt reality of threat le­git­im­ates pree­mptive ac­tion, once and for all.

It’s an interesting dissection of the construction of sovereignty and nationhood:

na­tional iden­tity is neg­at­ively con­struc­ted in terms of what it isn’t, or rather what it must be pro­tec­ted from. However this Other does not ne­ces­sarily have to reside out­side the na­tional bound­aries … The Manhunt Doctrine as elab­or­ated by Grégoire Chamayou ex­pli­citly ap­plies to all 21st cen­tury wars that are fought by gov­ern­ments against ex­ist­en­tial threats that do not have a na­tional al­le­gi­ance and, as such, may be loc­ated any­where and every­where around the world, in­cluding (and es­pe­cially) within the na­tional ter­ritory (the wars on drugs, crime, ter­rorism, etc.).


Seth Kaplan’s op-ed in the New York Times, What Makes Lagos a Model City, is another addition to the growing grey literature on successful cities – Bogotá is a frequently cited example – and argues for continued devolution to local government. As globalisation continues to erode accountability at a national level there’s something to be said for new experiments in devolved governance.


Spain’s judges have been very active in the prosecution of egregious violations of international human rights law, but it looks like their leash is going to be considerably shortened: David Bosco for Foreign Policy places the blame squarely on Chinese pressure. Kate at Wronging Rights puts it best:

With the latest change, the courts will now be limited to hearing cases in which both perpetrator and victim are Spanish nationals or residents. Which is pretty much what the Spanish courts would be doing anyway.


I’ve been tweeting a lot of Venezuela but haven’t read much commentary in English. A pair of interesting Spanish links:

The Venezuelan elections in a single photo

From BBC Mundo’s live blogging of the Venezuelan elections (my translation):

Venezuela’s borders were closed at midday Saturday and will not reopen until 11:59 pm tonight [Sunday].

Nevertheless, some braved the strong waters of the Táchira River this Sunday, in order to vote.

For the last few hours I’ve been hitting refresh on Mundo’s blog and watching the flickering, fast-moving and frustratingly speculative flow of tweets with Lanata’s Periodismo para Todos on in the background. #ComiendoUñas indeed (biting my nails). I was feeling shirty and anxious.

Then I saw this photo. Tweeted it. That tweet got favourited, and in the twitter feed of that person appeared this one:

#WeAreVenezuela RT @jeffersonparada: They crossed the Tachira River  just to exercise their right to vote.

There was a historic turnout and enormous participation amongst Venezuelans living overseas. That, at least, is a triumph for democracy. Here’s hoping the elections are clean and the elected president manages to unite a divided country.

#WeAreVenezuela. I wish you all well.

Edited 10 minutes later to add: So, that’s it. Chávez 54%, Capriles 44%. Enormous turnout of 80.4%. I’m incredibly disappointed. May the opposition remain united and strong: this was an inspiring practice run for 2019.

Dos modelos opuestos para el desarrollo regional

Son dos modelos opuestos: el modelo personalista, populista y discrecional de Venezuela frente a la gobernabilidad al estilo uruguayo: abierta al dialogo y la crítica, transparente y, tal vez, no tan fácil para llevar adelante. Las personalidades fuertes contra las instituciones. Argentina parece inclinarse hacia la primera, y el informe identifica la llamada enfermedad argentina: “crisis y debilidad institucional suelen fortalecerse mutuamente” .

Es una lástima que los últimos años de crecimiento económico no se hayan aprovechado para fortalecer las instituciones del país, impidiendo que la Argentina avance en el camino al desarrollo más allá de la influencia de los personalismos que caracterizan a los gobiernos peronistas.

El artículo competo se encuentra en la página web Análisis Latino, aquí.