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Daron Acemoglu on Ignorance - Dictionary of Arguments

Acemoglu I 63
Ignorance/inequalities/economy/poorness/Acemoglu/Robinson: The ignorance hypothesis maintains that poor countries are poor because they have a lot of market failures and because economists and policymakers do not know how to get rid of them and have heeded the wrong advice in the past.
Acemoglu I 64
AcemogluVsIgorance hypothesis: neither Ghana’s disappointing performance after independence nor the countless other cases of apparent economic mismanagement can simply be blamed on ignorance. After all, if ignorance were the problem, well-meaning leaders would quickly learn what types of policies increased their citizens’ incomes and welfare, and would gravitate toward those policies. Corruption instead of ignorance: It wasn’t differences in knowledge or intentions between John Smith and Cortés that laid the seeds of divergence during the colonial period, and it wasn’t differences in knowledge between later U.S. presidents, such as Teddy Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, and Porfirio Díaz that made Mexico choose economic institutions that enriched elites at the expense of the rest of society at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries while Roosevelt and Wilson did the opposite. Rather, it was the differences in the institutional constraints the countries’ presidents and elites were facing. Similarly, leaders of African nations that have languished over the last half century under insecure property rights and economic institutions, impoverishing much of their populations, did not allow this to happen because they thought it was good economics; they did so because they could get away with it and enrich themselves (...).
Acemogu I 66
The ignorance hypothesis differs from the geography and culture hypotheses in that it comes readily with a suggestion about how to “solve” the problem of poverty: if ignorance got us here, enlightened and informed rulers and policymakers can get us out and we should be able to “engineer” prosperity around the world by providing the right advice and by convincing politicians of what is good economics. [But] (...) the main obstacle to the adoption of policies that would reduce market failures and encourage economic growth is not the ignorance of politicians but the incentives and constraints
Acemoglu I 67
constraints they face from the political and economic institutions in their societies. >Economic policies/Acemoglu, >Institutions/Acemoglu.

The idea that ignorance explains comparative development is implicit in most economic analyses of economic development and policy reform: for example, Williamson (1990)(1); Perkins, Radelet, and Lindauer (2006)(2); and Aghion and Howitt (2009)(3). A recent, forceful version of this view is developed in Banerjee and Duflo (2011)(4).

1.Williamson, John (1990). Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened? Washington, D.C.: Institute of International Economics.
2.Perkins, Dwight H., Steven Radelet, and David L. Lindauer (2006). Development Economics. 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Co.
3.Aghion, Philippe, and Peter Howitt (2009). The Economics of Growth. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
4.Banerjee, Abhijit V., Esther Duflo, and Rachel Glennerster (2008). “Putting a Band-Aid on a Corpse: Incentives for Nurses in the Indian Public Health Care System.” System.” Journal of the European Economic Association 7: 487–500.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Acemoglu II
James A. Acemoglu
James A. Robinson
Economic origins of dictatorship and democracy Cambridge 2006

Acemoglu I
James A. Acemoglu
James A. Robinson
Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty New York 2012


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