The Best Shot at One Day Ending Poverty

“it is possible to make very significant progress against the biggest problem in the world through the accumulation of a set of small steps, each well thought out, carefully tested, and judiciously implemented. This might seem self-evident, but this is not how policy usually gets made. The practice of development policy, as well as the accompanying debates, seems to be premised on the impossibility of relying on evidence: Verifiable evidence is a chimera, at best a distant fantasy, at worst a distraction. ‘We have to get on with the work, while you indulge yourselves in the pursuit of evidence,’ is what hardheaded policy makers and their even harder-headed advisers often told us when we started down this path. Even today, there are many who hold this view. But there are also many people who have always felt disempowered by this unreasoned urgency. They feels, as we do, that the best anyone can do is to understand deeply the specific problems that afflict the poor and to try to identify the most effective ways to intervene. In some instances, no doubt, the best option will be to do nothing, but there is no general rule here, just as there is no general principle that spending money always works. It is the body of knowledge that grows out of each specific answer and the understanding that goes into those answers that give us the best shot at, one day, ending poverty.”

-Abhijiv V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, co-founders of JPAL

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