Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Helen's UNSW Economic Development Course

I have just read the course outline of the first year intra-disciplinary economic development course that eldest is doing at the University of NSW. I roared with laughter. In fairness, there are some interesting items that should provide a basis for an interesting course. Still, I had to laugh.

Reason one is that Helen did not in fact know (I did not realise this) that in opting for development economics she was following a family tradition - no less than five of her immediate Belshaw relatives including her father have done some work in this area, all with a multidisciplinary focus.

Reason two was that the course was incredibly bogged in what I have rudely called on this blog the values of the previous "liberal" orthodoxy.

When I first did development economics all those years ago our core focus was simple. How do you increase the standard of living of the world's poorest? You could not do this without looking at cultural and anthropological issues, but beating poverty was the core.

Growing up in Armidale, then the location of the only Australian non-metro university, I had a privileged childhood in that most of the limited number of international academics and writers visiting Australia came to Armidale with many looked after by Dad.

One person I met was Gunnar Myrdal, the winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Economics. Myrdal had a remarkable career as academic, international civil servant, Government minister and writer. His 1944 book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy is, I think, still an important book in the evolution of attitudes towards what was then called the Negro.

Now how does all this link? Myrdal's Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations and The Challenge of World Poverty. A World Anti-Poverty Program in Outline remains one of the most monumental attempts to bring a range of disciplines to bear on the question of economic development.

When I look at the reading lists there is no reference that I can see to any of the earlier work nor to the history of the subject. However, there is an entire long list of references to the Australian Aborigines.

I may be wrong in all this, I will go through the course in more detail later, but so far I find it all very interesting.

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