Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More

Charles Kenny

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0465020151

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


As the income gap between developed and developing nations grows, so grows the cacophony of voices claiming that the quest to find a simple recipe for economic growth has failed. Getting Better, in sharp contrast, reports the good news about global progress. Economist Charles Kenny argues against development naysayers by pointing to the evidence of widespread improvements in health, education, peace, liberty--and even happiness.

Kenny shows how the spread of cheap technologies, such as vaccines and bed nets, and ideas, such as political rights, has transformed the world. He also shows that by understanding this transformation, we can make the world an even better place to live.

That's not to say that life is grand for everyone, or that we don't have a long way to go. But improvements have spread far, and, according to Kenny, they can spread even further.

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that “technology” as defined by economists is a very broad concept, covering all sorts of innovation. It covers traditional or invented technologies—Watt’s steam train, Engelbart’s computer mouse—to be sure. But it also covers anything else that can raise the productivity of labor or capital. Think of Adam Smith’s pin factory, highlighted in the Wealth of Nations. The specialized machinery of the factory (technology “embodied” in physical capital) and the skills required to use it (human capital)

rising fertility between 1963 and 1967. Only one did in the years between 1998 and 2002, and the average fertility change across the region has been increasingly negative since 1973. It appears that what dominates the birthrate is no longer static custom but an increased expectation that children will survive and improved options regarding the decision to get pregnant. Once again, the driving force behind this change has been improved health innovations that have spread worldwide. And once again,

cost to provide. It is difficult to know how much people would pay to avoid living in a state of anarchy, but it might be more than the third of their income it costs many governments to provide. That’s probably why Voices of the Poor, a series of World Bank surveys capturing the voices of more than 40,000 poor people from around the world, suggests that the poor themselves see the escape from poverty as having many dimensions other than more money. Material elements—covering housing, land, and

subject to invasion. With that comes a greater likelihood for citizens to be attacked, to face famine, or to be forced into flight and refugee status. Civil peace requires stability and a working system of law enforcement, both of which might be considered costly.5 Given the obvious links between adequate income and opportunities to reach a decent quality of life covering health, education, and security, it is a simple step to the conventional wisdom that improvements in income play the

Trial.” The Lancet 366, no. 9481. Maddison, A. 2001. The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective. Paris: OECD. Madon, G. 2003. “Energy, Poverty and Gender: Impacts of Rural Electrification on Poverty and Gender in Indonesia.” Mimeo, World Bank. McGillivray, M. 2005. “Is Aid Effective?” Paper presented at the Foundation for Development Co-operation “Financing Development Colloquium,” held in Surfers Paradise, Australia, August 2004. McNeil, M., and V. E. Letschert. 2005. “Forecasting

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