But as long as folks having this conversation feel free to engage in armchair psychoanalysis of others’ motives, I’ll throw out my own hypothesis about why so many academics in the blogosphere are drawn to the anticorruption-is-a-Western-obsession-that-doesn’t-matter-much-for-development canard: academics (and I speak as a member of the tribe) enjoy feeling like iconoclasts willing to speak uncomfortable truths to power. And in the development field, a certain type of academic particularly enjoys attacking anything that the major institutions (World Bank, U.S. government, OECD, etc.) seem to be for. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself – a contrarian cast of mind is often conducive to questioning received wisdom and pointing out contradictions, self-serving justifications, and the like. But in this case, I think it’s lazy and counterproductive.
Well, yeah, it’s usually lazy and unproductive. As a member of the tribe, I feel vindicated. I find that too many academics aren’t as concerned with bettering to world so much as making themselves feel good about themselves by following a political script. If we’d worry more about pragmatics and less about ideology, we might be able to help make the world a better place.
I’m slowly waking up from the Christmas break and aching from shoveling all this snow.
I read a lot of news media but, in terms of total number of sources, I read more blogs than anything else. Here are my favorites for 2013, in no particular order.
1. The Big Picture – Barry Ritholz works in finance. Unlike some of his colleagues he is human, rather than reptilian. He gives great and reasonable financial advice, much of which centers around completely ignoring media reporting on finance and investing trends. He’ll tell you to do boring things, like pick something you’re into and stick with it for the long haul. Though he works in finance, he’s immensely interested in all of its problems. Plus, he posts great reading lists on a daily basis.
2. Noahpinion – Noah Smith is an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University. He writes for the Atlantic and others but also writes a great blog on finance and economics that isn’t so difficult for people like me to understand, but technical enough to maintain my interest.
3. Calculated Risk – Great blog on domestic economic issues which includes timely updates and a host of graphics to help you figure out what’s going right or wrong with the American economy.
4. Shisaku – Interesting blog on Japanese politics from Michel Cucek, a research associate at the MIT Center for International Studies. Japanese news isn’t always the best source for information on Japanese politics and my reading ability is far to slow to digest more interesting writing on the subject. This blog is a great resource.
5. Chris Blattman – Chris Blattman is an Assistant Professor of Political Science & International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He studies poverty, political participation, the causes and consequences of violence, and policy in developing countries and writes a great blog on global issues.
6. Mark Maynard – I would feel bad if I didn’t list Mark here. Mark is a good friend. He wants to make his town a better place. To do this, he writes regularly on issues relevant to Ypsilanti, MI in addition to current happenings in liberal politics.
7. PLOS Global Health Blog – As it says. The posts are infrequent, but always worth it.
8. Africa is a Country – This has turned out to be one of my favorite sites of the year. Great articles on African popular culture, politics and history. Africa is a Country is a great sounding board for those enthusiastic about the Africa that has nothing to do with Bono’s starving kids and poor women.
9. Conscience of a Liberal – I have to say, I love Paul Krugman’s blog. He’s somewhat of a broken record (liquidity traps, the infallibility of Keynesian economics, “I told you so”) but it’s great to have a solider out there exposing the failings of Republican economic policy (assuming there is one).
10. Baobob (Economist) – I was hesitant to put this on the list as it’s from a magazine rather than an individual, but I do read it frequently and can recommend it as a great source for news and commentary on current events in Africa.
That was somewhat of a challenge. 4 blogs on finance/economics, 2 on Africa, 2 on global health/development, 1 on Japan and 1 on local issues. That kinds of sums me up.