One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt
Department of "Huh?"

Why Is Africa Poor?

Chris Blattman asks for advice and help with his syllabus: Why is Africa poor and what (if anything) can the West do about it?

Instructor: Chris Blattman, Departments of Political Science & Economics,  

Purpose and Nature of the Course: In the 1960s, Africa’s future looked bright. This optimism was extinguished, however, by four decades of disappointing growth, failing states, corrupt regimes, widespread poverty and famine, and high levels of violence and civil war. Decades of fiveyear plans, foreign aid flows, military expeditions, and humanitarian interventions seem to have had little impact, and perhaps even a negative one.

Today, hope for growth and stability is again flourishing in Africa. Civil wars are dwindling, more of the continent is democratic than ever, and many countries have sustained modest growth rates for almost a decade. There are new private foundations, pledges to increase foreign aid, African and UN intervention forces, and books claiming that the end of poverty is within our grasp. The West is capable of saving Africa, according to some. Africa will grow and prosper in spite of the West, according to others. Still others fear that expectations and growth are about to come crashing down again as African and Western government repeat the mistakes of the past. 

Why is Africa poor? What, if anything, can the West do about it? No course can answer these questions in full, but one can get started on the (hopefully lifelong) learning. Students will be exposed to the major and the not‐so-major debates in aid and development. They will discuss the conventional and less conventional theories of  poverty, growth, war and good governance, and why there is so much or so little of it in Africa. The aim is to help students think critically about these debates and their possible role in the problem and solutions.