Economy and Development

Why this cock has not crowed and may never crow.


First the absurd:
In a recent court case in France, the owner of a rooster (cockerel) named Maurice was taken to court by neighbors. The complaint? They had had enough of the “irritating” crowing of Maurice. In a land mark judgement, the court ruled that the cock was doing what cocks do. The case was dismissed and Maurice’s owner was awarded $1,100 as damages. That cock made the owner proud.

Humans crow too.
As cocks are meant to crow so humans are designed to develop. However, while cocks crow by instinct, humans are supposed to think and organize their development. The brain is an amazing piece of machine built to make and do stuff that no one can predict. One of the best books I have read this year is, “Where good ideas come from. The natural history of innovation” by Steven Johnson.

Any reader of that book will come away with the idea that there is universal pool of ideas. It is there for anyone to seek by merely tuning their minds to the right channels and fellowshipping with like minds. This is not a conjecture. The history of science and development provides irrefutable proof that the human brain is an incredible piece of work whose power is unknowable.

However, that meeting of like minds is very critical to science and development. Lonely stars can not and do not develop a country. There has to be a bunch of them colliding their ideas to create what Steven Johnson called brain noise which in turn lead his concept of “The Adjacent Possible.” One door leading to so many previously unknown doors. At each door, there must be someone or a couple of people who will ask, what could be behind this door? What if we break in there? And this has to happen simultaneously across all sectors of an economy for the impact to be felt.

Why then are some countries so dumb that they fail to develop?
The debate on this matter is contentious and endless amongst development economists. If all races are similarly endowed, development should be universal. Since development is not universal, the reverse conclusion will be that we are not all similarly endowed.
This has led some to think that “universal mental endowment” is a fallacy and to conclude that some races are superior to others. The debate over whether this is true or not rages on. However, recent findings that different races are a combination of races put a huge question mark on the inferior/superior debate.
In any case, I have never been persuaded by the superior race argument even though it is somewhat appealing. Economic development history testifies to a brutal and primitive past across all continents. Those who have remained primitive are victims of their own devices with some little “help” from those who are determined to remain on top of the development pyramid.

What is it then that makes some countries dumb and others smart?
Is it culture, religion, homogeneity, geography, education, institutions or ignorance?
Renowned Professor of Development, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University frequently provides powerful arguments on how some of the above listed influencers shaped the disparate history of development . However, Sachs has never said that those factors constituted a death sentence to countries currently trapped in poverty. He only claims that they could be serious impediments to development if a country is on the “wrong lane” in any of the influencers.

But in their 2012 book “Why nations fail: the origin of power, prosperity and poverty,” Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson dismissed most of those influencers as the root of today’s unbalanced world. Rather, they pointed to Institutions-economic and political as the warehouse of economic troubles.
They demarcated the institutions into two- inclusive and extractive.
According to them,
Inclusive economic institutions are those that allow and encourage participation by the great mass of people in economic activities that make best use of their talents and skills and that enable individuals to make the choices they wish. To be inclusive, economic institutions must feature secure private property, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provides a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract; it also must permit the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their careers.”
On the other hand, the authors defined extractive institutions as those generally the opposite of what is described above but also specifically designed
to extract incomes and wealth from one subset of society to benefit a different subset.”


My friend Uche Igwe, who just completed his PHD studies on corruption at Sussex University calls members of the extractive institutions “transactional politicians.” Everything about them is “carry along and carry go.” They are primitive accumulators of wealth. They would steal a country blind and prefer to die with their loot remaining hidden and untouched where necessary.
Nevertheless, in my view, development comes down to one thing: state of mind. The saying, you are what you think applies. Development begins from what the leaders and the people of any country think and choose to do. It is like eating from a buffet. You think about what you should eat and step forward to choose from the alternatives.

Has this cock ever crowed?
This question makes some people to foam in their mouths. The answers are usually highly charged with the debaters talking rowdily, not listening to each other (one of such debates was going on as I was concluding this piece).

However, development is not an emotional thing. It is physical. It is glaring. It is distinct crow. Not the kind that sounds like a run down battery trying to kickstart a car that has been packed for a long time.

Will this cock ever crow?
Even if we assume that this cock crowed before due to some romantic idea about some phantom good old days, the question now is will the cock crow again and how strongly will it crow.
All things considered, I am not optimistic. What I hear is indistinct and weak. To reboot this cock will take a helluva effort. Nevertheless, I wish those who believe we are on the right path, that it is only a question of time, all the best. May their wishes come true before midnight. My only caution is that they should not be delusional in their expectations or wishes. Delusion is dangerous.

(Featured image courtesy of C5 Studios.)

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