Category Archives: Publications

Fragility and Transparency

When the OECD released their 2015 Fragility Report I remember looking at the penta-Venn Diagram of the different states of fragility and wondering why Afghanistan was not fragile in institutions, which was supposed to capture corruption among other governance issues. This question eventually led to a Monkey Cage post on my attempt to replicate their measures of fragility.

The 2015 OECD Fragility diagram with my edits

The OECD responded in a comment to the initial posting pointing out some problems with my replication while admitting certain errors. However, after a revised replication that incorporates those edits, all up on Github, I still get very different results.

I look forward to seeing OECD’s 2016 report as they have discussed some interesting revisions to their measure of fragility. Hopefully along with substantive improvements they will also incorporate improve their methodology especially by way of transparency. As the OECD continues to work with this data in order to provide a public good, the greatest good will come from being as public as possible.

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Ebola and Conflict addendum: rainfall and HIV/AIDS

In mid-November the international community was still seriously concerned about Ebola and its effects on West Africa. Some prominent figures even called Ebola a threat to international peace. My realist/cynical side figured the calls might simply be an attempt to raise awareness and aid, but I was intrigued by the question, has disease ever led to war?

In my Foreign Policy piece (USIP mirror) I examine the literature on how disease could directly or indirectly lead to war. The short answer is that disease does not lead to war, but depending on the exact effect of an epidemic and government’s response, disease could lead to other forms of conflict.

Two sections were cut for the final version of the article. First, we cut out the research on whether economic shocks lead to conflict using rainfall as an instrumental variable. This growing body of literature launched by Miguel, Satyanath and Sergenti is fascinating, but trying to explain instrumental variables proved unwieldy in such a compact article.

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Why the Afghan Election Still Isn’t Over

That was the title of my article on the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog. The article was a response to repeated calls by pundits and politicians for the candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, to end the election crisis for the sake of democracy. Often, the implication was that Abdullah should accept the initial results that Ghani won the vote since it seemed impossible that Abdullah could make up the million vote difference.

However, if in reality the outcome was determined by fraud, then from Abdullah’s point of view his resistance could be for the sake of democracy. The conventional wisdom was that Abdullah would have to be crazy to believe he had actually won the legitimate vote, but as I show it is actually quite easy to believe Abdullah Abdullah won. It only takes two assumptions, neither of which were unreasonable.

Now, six months later, the coalition government seems somewhat stable, but progress has been slow. Unfortunately, fast and politically difficult electoral reform is needed to prevent the September parliamentary election from as being tumultuous. Without a current population census, a complete voter registration, or accurate polling before or after the election, there is no ground truth to compare vote counts to, threatening the legitimacy of the elections. As it currently stands, it is not the candidates but the election process itself that threatens Afghanistan’s democratic future.

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