Insights from the Economist

In: Uncategorized

23 Nov 2008

A couple of particularly interesting pieces in this week’s Economist (22 November):

* An article on the creation of a Committee on Climate Change, chaired by the ubiquitous Adair Turner, modelled on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. In other words it will give Britain’s green pledges the force of law. They will be enforced by an unelected committee with no popular accountability.

* An economic focus on the relationship between economic growth and health. The piece looks at whether healthier populations lead to more economic growth rather than the other way round. Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a review of the discussion the Economist does not reach a definite conclusion but one passage is worth quoting:

“Beginning in the 1940s, several medical innovations involving penicillin, streptomycin and DDT made it easier to treat diseases—such as tuberculosis, malaria and yellow fever—that disproportionately affected people in developing countries. Because these ideas originated in the rich world and were spread by organisations such as the WHO, any improvements in health they led to would have been unconnected with prior improvements in the economic circumstances of poor countries.

“This international revolution in public health did lead to substantial increases in life expectancy in poor countries by the 1950s.”

To me this shows that economic growth, along with the associated development of technology, helps the poorer countries. This can happen even when the poorer countries do not become richer themselves – although of course it is better if they do.