Everyone is saying the same - let us stop taking sides


Development economics is full of debates - some scholarly, some rhetoric and some with high intense passion and emotions. Academics are also part of these debates, advocating for what they believe is correct, with their followers passionately supporting these ideas, sometimes going to the extremes and polarizing the debate. Prof Maitresh Ghatak eloquently captured the nuances of these debate in his recent article, Suit-boot of Jhola. Prof Ghatak argues (one of the points) that human capital and growth are not supposed to be debated as zero-sum games, both are important. I completely agree with this and this post brings up the same point from a different perspective. I argue that all the famous personalities quoted in the debates are saying the same and are misinterpreted in debates. Let us see some examples. 

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.

Correlation vs. Causation - Are interpretations from correlations always bad?

Aditya Kuvalekar makes an insightful point in his recent blog post on correlation vs. causation arguments.
“Correlation is not causation,” “Anecdotal evidence isn’t really an evidence”! I am sure many of us have had these statements thrown at us at some point of time in debunking any argument that we make. True as these statements are, without a doubt, I think we have come dangerously close to interpreting these as “Correlation implies no causation” or “Anecdotes are false”.
I completely agree with this and am glad that someone has made this point. I observe two categories of correlation vs. causation interpretations that people generally make.