Jeffery Sachs runs Millennium Village project. He is strong supporter of external aid as an intervention and has been successful in convincing people to donate huge money. Most of his advocacy is about aid. His opponents criticize him for putting aid as primary agenda. If one hears him normally, one would think that Sachs is all about aid, dismissing other factors. But in certain in-depth interviews, he does say that, urbanization, growth, trade are the only long term solution to generating incomes, but till then before millions die, we have a duty to save them. Hence aid is crucial at this point of time. This argument of Prof Sachs is not well-known. He is seen as the 'aid-only' advocate.
William Easterly is said to be the ideological opponent of Jeff Sachs. Easterly's arguments are that decades of aid has fetched nothing. Growth, institutions matter. It would appear as if Easterly is dismissing everything other than growth and institutions. But Easterly too, in his writings does say that aid is necessary but should be done properly with accountability. He mentions four prerequisites of a successful aid programme: Customer Feedback, Incentives, Accountability, Outcomes. Contrary to the popular perception that Prof Easterly is against aid, he does seem to say that aid can be done but should be done in a particular way to make it most effective.
Richardo Haussman has come up with economic complexity, the famous Atlas of Economic Complexity project. It essentially says that countries with greater economic complexity grow more. Economic complexity in simplistic terms means, greater diversity of skill sets of people. He puts economic complexity at the forefront in most of his arguments. His recent article argues that education as strategy to growth is misplaced. Prof. Haussman is perceived to be dismissing the importance of education and is seen to be an advocate of doing something else. The fact being, he is trying to say that education is necessary but we should do much beyond it.
All economists, I mean all, if you probe them properly, agree that all the above mentioned factors are useful. The difference of opinion comes in the importance they attach to these factors. We must note that the importance attached is also a function of time. If a problem being proclaimed as important today is solved, some other becomes important tomorrow.
I hypothesize that the difference in importance attached to a particular factor is due to one or more of the following reasons.
- Sensitivity of a person to a factor: Seeing people not receiving education troubles some people. This touches their emotional nodes. Different people are struck by different factors.
- Neglected or undermined factor: If someone feels that a particular factor is being neglected and not receiving attention it is supposed to receive, they tend to bring this into limelight by strongly advocating for it.
- Discoverer of a new phenomenon or factor: If someone uncovers a relation or a new factor, it is common for them to speak about it in most of their public talks and writings.