Via this Economist Free Exchange blogger (via McArdle), whose arguments seem strangely familiar, comes a review of The Bottom Billion.  My guess is that Paul Collier, the author, and I would agree on many of the evils of ”developmentalism” and would find some of the same problems with the organisations and institutions that allegedly promote development in poor countries.  The Free Exchange blogger refers to ”Easterly’s jaded pessimism,” which is fair if he means Easterly’s attitude towards the institutions and ideology of development.  It might be misleading to those who are not aware that Easterly is, in fact, a tremendously optimistic booster of free trade (one might almost call his views on trade naive, but I do not) who believes that the surest way for “the developing world” to enjoy economic growth is for development agencies and foreign governments to stop engaging in their absurd obsession with “helping” them.  Much more help of that kind, and these countries are done for.  

At one point, the reviewer writes:

The Nobel laureate Robert Solow once wrote that economists are intellectual sanitation workers: their key contribution is to consign bad ideas to the trash.

So that’s what economists are good for!  I had been wondering.  The Free Exchange blogger goes on to promote mass immigration (or rather mass emigration from the poor nation-states) to free people from their “national prisons.”  Iraqi refugees have been thus “liberated,” and I assume that they would have preferred to stay in the “prison,” which makes this talk of prisons seem rather odd.  Some might think that people who live in these “prison” countries regard the place where they live as their home and might even say that they are not simply labour units to be reassigned to allow for greater efficiencies.  Mass uprooting and relocation of poor populations with migrants moving from the countryside to the city and from the home country to communities abroad, which has happened in virtually every impoverished, modernising nation-state from the independence of Greece on, is all very good for those who can get out, but dooms those who remain (and many will remain) to an even more miserable existence.  Dr. Wilson once remarked on this, asking a rhetorical question that went something like this: “What sort of country robs poor countries of their best and brightest people?”  This blogger’s kind of country, it would seem. 

This talk of “national prisons” is the sort of language applied to states that one wishes did not exist and would like to see dismantled.  Again, the example of Iraq (or that of the recent Ivorian civil war) stands out to show us what will follow the breakdown of the “national prisons” in Africa and elsewhere.  However, like the bold Wilsonians dispensing self-determination to the “imprisoned” nations of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, those who would destroy the prisonhouses may be quite unhappy with what results.