Student Economist

An International Development and Economics MA Candidate Drones on About Very Little Indeed.

Oh, and by the way December 2, 2008

Filed under: random musings — etoile @ 3:05 am

My undergraduate diploma finally arrived in the mail!

So many things culminating all at once…


Fall grades

Filed under: the graduate experience — etoile @ 3:02 am

All A’s.

Relief. Surprise. Gratitude. Hope.

More soon.


Brief Paper: The Effectiveness of the State as an Agency of Development in Developing Countries September 23, 2008

Filed under: Papers — etoile @ 10:44 pm

Sarah Meyer

MA Candidate – International Development

University of Denver


When examining the effectiveness of the state in development within developing countries, one must consider what constitutes “effectiveness” in development. Many scholars disagree on this point. Some might consider the role of the state to be as unobtrusive as possible, and to avoid any economic intervention in the form of regulatory policy. As long as the GDP evidences positive growth and other economic metrics experience stable and positive growth, scholars of this stripe might consider the state to have been effective in development. Another sort of thinker might use the Millennium Development Goals as a metric for determining development effectiveness, and would hold the state responsible for the wellbeing of all its members. In this case the state would need to be involved in the measurement of these attainments, while also developing solutions for improvement within areas of unsatisfactory growth. As several of the authors mention, the effectiveness of the state in development depends on a variety of factors that constitute complex variables that must be considered in any study of state effectiveness. 

Several of the papers included in the assigned readings for week two raise questions about the role of the state in development. Each of the authors seem to agree that the state does indeed have a role in the process of development, but each one of them raises unique points about the specific roles that the state can play and the relative effectiveness of those roles.  Where Tabellini examines the possible correlation between the existence of adequate institutional infrastructure and positive, sustainable economic growth, Batley and Larbi choose instead to take a historical approach in their inquiry into the changing role of government internationally. Tobin applies an entirely different methodology, measuring the size of a state’s bureaucracy and then applying Wagner’s law of increasing state activity (in this case, China) to shed light on the effectiveness of the public policy process in a given state.

As far as my own assessment of the role of states, as well as the effectiveness of states in economic development, much would depend on how economic development as a concept was defined. If “economic development” is focused more on the human development goals that most improve the economic circumstances of the poorest groups, and less on state-wide macroeconomic indicators, then each state’s role in development can be mapped out accordingly with a focus on the complexities that make each state unique. In the developing nations of the world, there are still widespread problems of access to redistribution and social services that prevent economic increase from trickling down to all segments of society, particularly those located in remote villages and rural regions far from the nuclei of economic activity. The state should have a primary role in minimizing these problems of access, which should serve to improve human development metrics within its borders.

If “economic development” were defined instead as “the social organizational changes made to promote growth in an economy”, as it is defined by the Oregon State Department of Anthropology’s website, I would still posit that the state should assume a substantial role in this process. In an ideal scenario, the state would be entirely effective at the task of introducing, evaluating, and maintaining appropriate and functional social organizations and regulatory policy to allow for the best possible economic growth. However, as we are well aware, ideal scenarios do no play out as such in reality. No state will be perfectly effective in its developmental goals. The state’s ineffectiveness can be counterbalanced by the efforts of non-governmental organizations, as well as auxiliary or international organizations involved in the development arena.

I hesitate to promote democracy as a wholesale solution that will provide checks and balances, as well as representation for all citizens, since the process of democratization cannot be assumed as a mandatory prerequisite for development within a state. Each type of government should be held responsible, regardless of its current or historical political structure, for development that is balances across all sectors of its population, which can be attained by first eliminating problems of access for all people. 



Tobin, D. (2005). Economic liberalization, the changing role of the state and “Wagner’s Law”: China’s development experience since 1978. World Development, 33(5): 729-743.

Batley, R. & Larbi, G. (2004). Changing views of the role of the government. In The changing role of government: The reform of public services in developing countries (pp. 1-30). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [30/260]

Tabellini, G. (2005). The role of the state in economic development. KYKLOS, 58(2), 283-303.


The moon in Idaho September 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — etoile @ 7:02 pm

We are almost halfway home.


Me and Owl and her little squirrel… September 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — etoile @ 4:40 am

I guess it’s Caturday for this blog.


Wangari Maathai’s White Paper

Filed under: Uncategorized — etoile @ 4:09 am

Wangari Maathai on Principal Voices

All the 2006 Principal Voices are submitting a White Paper to the Web site, explaining their views at length.

Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, argues that how everyone has a role to play in environmental protection efforts.  


Our environment is fragile and the Earth’s resources are limited. We must learn to manage these resources responsibly, accountably and share them more equitably.

This will only be possible if we govern ourselves in a political space that is democratic and respects human rights, the law and the diversity of cultures, traditions and perspectives. In such a world, where dialogue is encouraged, many conflicts can be pre-empted.

Among the many human activities that degrade the environment are deforestation and the clearing of shrubs and other vegetation from the land, both of which exacerbate the process of desertification. Other harmful behavior includes creation of pollution and waste, often driven by the “single use products” such as thin plastics and paper.

Initiatives to mitigate this environmental degradation must come from governments, the private sector and individuals. To encourage and support such efforts, it is essential to raise awareness, so a critical mass of people within government bodies, corporations and among citizens understand what is at stake and are motivated to take action.

In this respect, it is critically important to have strong citizens’ movements — a civil society — that are able to take action and demand a clean environment from all the other actors.

Countries and regions that do not have strong citizens’ movements are unlikely to meet the environmental challenges that face them. In Africa in particular, a stronger civil society is especially needed to address the issues of deforestation and desertification.

One of the issues that is likely to be a major source of conflict in Africa in coming years is the availability of clean drinking water. While people can live without oil or minerals, they cannot live without water.

There are many ways in which the environment can be rehabilitated and sustained. Individuals, companies and organizations can engage in activities such as planting trees, as well as protecting existing trees and forests. They can curb soil erosion through simple techniques such as building trenches and harvesting rainwater, protecting watersheds and riverine habitats. They can also recycle, reduce waste and lower their consumption of fossil fuels. Such activities would help reduce negative environmental footprints.

When I was in Japan I learned about the concept of “mottainai.” It originates in the Buddhist tradition and the concept roughly parallels the “3R” campaign that has been popularlized in the U.S. and Europe for many years; reduce, reuse and recycle and don’t waste. I have been working to make the concept of “mottainai” better known and I hope that it will be adopted more widely.

Through my work over the past 30 years I have seen again and again that women are the first to experience the impact of limited natural resources since they are often engaged in ensuring the survival of their families. Therefore, they tend to be more responsive to addressing the situation, and willing to work for the rehabilitation of their immediate environment. Men, by contrast, tend to be driven by the necessity of earning an income and as such tend to look further into the future rather than worry about immediate survival.

Many people, organizations and companies have resources, knowledge and skills and can support those who are in the forefront of protecting our environment and ensuring that our needs, as well as those of future generations, can be met. In particular, they can support initiatives for women and families.

The Green Belt Movement shares, with many others around the world, the vision of a clean and healthy environment, and appreciates the efforts of those who devote their time, energy and resources to the wellbeing of the Earth and all its inhabitants. Not only do we honor and respect them, but we also hope that more people will be inspired to join them — and us — and play their part.

To find our more about the Green Belt Movement’s work and Wangari Maathai, please visit


It’s late… September 7, 2008

Filed under: random musings — etoile @ 3:04 am

I might, in fact, be updating a lot more regularly now since I just downloaded a wordpress utility for my iPhone. My entries just might be a lot more random and/or inane. Or at least mundane.

I’m in bed with the lights out but I can’t seem to fall asleep. Listening to more of Tuchman’s 14th century. Tomorrow morning (today?) we had planned to go to church and then have lunch with Mom-in-law incorporated. I have to start getting normal sleep with classes starting next week. I’m already reading my required texts…