Chris Blattman

Links I liked

8 Responses

  1. Prox, I started reading that article, and it may well have a point, but it was obscured by all the poetic gibberish (“here the body creates more symbolic capital by virtue of becoming less than itself”, “the young boy… made the sacrificial lamb who will need to be resurrected and redeemed”) and poorly supported claims about Kristof’s motivations (“there is a mention of broader linkages–but only so they can be dismissed.”) Ugh.

  2. I thought my link was defending Kristof, by also pointing you to a more balanced account.

    Also, be careful not to mistake liking a link for agreeing with it in full.

  3. I like most of the links you like so I read pretty much all the stories you link to and #2 is hands down the worst. She ends with “Kristof never proved his strategy works and I don’t have any good reason to think it doesn’t but he’s guilty until proven innocent.”

    I like your “rants” in general, e.x. the MegaPAC rant, the “Freakonomics no HT” rant, the “World Bank fly business class” rant, but I think you’ve got to get off this hating Kristof, celebrities, “development tourists,” Invisible Children, etc thing. It’s bad for your health and your readers’ health (if they get all bent out of shape for no reason too).

  4. I know nothing about Kristof and I don’t read his stuff, but after reading article 2 I find myself wanting to defend him, also.

    This is an exercise in emotive and inappropriate labeling and insinuation without substance. Everything Kristof does is supposedly self serving and directed at the advance of some sinister “ism”.

    I think Alex deals adequately with the isms, which are ludicrous.

    As for Kristof being self serving, this requires some further consideration. I think every apparently altruistic behaviour we engage in is to some extent self serving. I know this is true of the mundane day-to-day altruism that I experience. When I make my co-workers a pot of coffee, a little part of me is doing it because I want to be seen as helpful and considerate. When a colleague offers to proofread a paper for me, he or she has similar motivations to some degree, I am sure. Most of the time this is completely irrelevant to whether the behaviour is praiseworthy or blameworthy. (And of course, economists celebrate even wholly self serving acts that inadvertently make everyone better off.) All that is generally required is that the altruistic person shows a modicum of humility. And even if they don’t, in some cases we should encourage them anyway.

    I don’t know whether Kristof really does boast excessively or nurture his image at the expense of those he claims to help; it is simply insinuated with little in the way of evidence.

  5. I’m only half way through reading link #2, but I already feel a need to come here and defend Kristof. To call Kristof’s crusade against human trafficking a form of paternalism/imperialism is just… Orwellian really. It takes what is human and REAL (the sex trafficking of young women) and turns it into a phony battle about Western moralities/intervention/celebrity. It ignores the problem and attacks the messenger. Bad, bad, bad, bad.

  6. #2. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and powerless (like Kristof, on global injustice), a good way to assuage that discomfort is to attack the messenger, personally if necessary.

  7. Re 2: Something that really annoys me is when authors use charged technical vocabulary in the wrong contexts. Imperialism is a political doctrine dating back to the 19th Century which aims to strengthen an empire through economic, cultural and military means. It is thus originates from national policy and a specific vision of the state. Recently it has been conflated to refer to every form of supposed “western arrogance” or “foreign intervention”. This is an error. It is similar to those who refer to every authority as being fascist or who claim every social program to be communist (both of those also being very distinct political doctrines). Such overuse and misuse of terms erodes their meaning. In this case, however, the verbal confusion is especially deplorable since the author’s argument seems legitimate. But her criticisms are invalidated by use of the word imperialism, which, if it is interpreted using the correct meaning, would imply that the author is arguing that Kristof’s ways of helping, such as raiding brothels, are not just arrogant and ineffective but rather part of a larger, government orchestrated effort to increase the real power and territorially expand the United States. It would also suggest that the author thinks US anti-trafficking laws were made equally to ultimately help expand US territory and hegemony. Since such claims would be rather conspiratory and slightly ridicolous I do not believe that is what the author is trying to say. Therefore, in order to add to her criticisms instead of detracting from them, she should have foregone overly charged technical terms like “imperial” and instead used the more accurate “arrogant”.

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