Friday, June 26, 2015

Readings in modern political economy

I have been traveling this week, and brought with me a few books and papers to keep reading in airports and planes. I read a book on the political and institutional aspects of global projects written mainly by engineers with an open mind for interdisciplinary work with economists, political scientists and other schoalrs. Some of the authors were present in the meeting I attended to build a global database of infrastructure projects. The authors emphasize the complexity of institutional arrangements that accompany this kind of undertakings. The ideas suggest that promoters and investors should anticipate the existence of resistances by stakeholders and improve the mechanisms to engage with them and predict their behaviour. More than insulated experts deciding and regulating projects, we need engaged experts who communicate with communities and work with them. On methodology, I have been reading a book on field experiments and their critics, with articles defending and criticising the use of randomized control trials and related techniques. It contains a very interesting skeptical piece by Angus Deaton among other interesting chapters. Finally, I have also been reading the book "Imperfect Union," about the role of special districts in the USA. These districts are specific jurisdictions that manage schools, water projects, infrastructures and many other services. The author reports that these districts have the problem that they tend to be captured by special interests, because only those who intensely benefit from them incur the costs of monitoring and voting for them.

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