Question 7

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What are your perspectives on the following statement? “The historical four-fold transformation of countries as paradigm of development is just as kinky, but on another level. True development will also require transformation of global relations, including solving global crises like pandemics, climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic waste, economic exploitation and so on. I see no role for RCTs there either.”

Lant: I agree that there is little or no role for RCTs in those challenges either. But I disagree that the four-fold transformation is in any way “kinky.” What the development of societies and countries into high productivity, representative and responsive government, capable organizations for administration, and social equity create is a powerful problem-nominating and problem-solving machine. Once countries are “developed” in this sense they are much more likely to be able to address the challenges you face than if they are not. The four-fold transformation is not a set of targets in the human development space; it is an expansion of the ability of societies to decide on which problems to solve, and an increase in their capability to solve them.

Editors: Indeed, RCTs have nothing to say on global issues, and this is one of their first weaknesses. A clear conclusion of the book is precisely this: due to technical constraints, RCTs can only address issues related to private and individual goods (the argument is not completely new, but it had not been formulated so clearly).