Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More interesting but useless research from an economist

A researcher at Florida Gulf Coast University demonstrates that in deeply corrupt countries such as Congo, incidences of corrupt practices actually enhance economic growth. In his view, this may be because it helps companies sidestep onerous rules.

Actually in "deeply corrupt countries" too-onerous rules as well as whimsical administrations exist precisely to make it necessary to bribe before anything, legal or illegal can be done (actually, there may be very little that is "legal").

So, in such countries, there is NO other way of doing business than by bribery et al.

Since growth is the byproduct of economic activity, naturally there would be NO growth if no one paid any bribes and no business got done.

The researcher has, however, a category of "less extreme corruptness", which he calls "average endemic corruption". In such countries, by his calculation, a one-standard-deviation increase in corrupt incidences depresses per-capita GDP growth by 0.12 percentage points.

The conclusion to be reached from his research appears to be, on the face of it, that if you want to be corrupt and to have economic growth at the same time, it is better to be extremely corrupt than to be averagely corrupt.

That is of course nonsense. The level of growth in a "deeply corrupt" country is very much lower than in an "averagely corrupt" country. In other words, the degree of lack of growth of a country is directly linked to how corrupt it is.

That startling fact does not need research.

In fact a lot of research nowadays tends to labour the obvious.

Which is what is bound to happen when university professors are rated by university administrations 80% on how much they publish, and only 20% on how well they teach as well as on how much else they do (e.g. organise academic conferences).

This philosophy of university administrations results in what is called the "publish or perish" syndrome. That produces a lot of publications, but because the "quality" of the research is assessed on technical criteria, you get a lot of "top quality" research which adds very little to the sum of non-obvious or useful human knowledge. Sphere: Related Content

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