Opportunist bias in public discussion and research on development
Conceptions of underdevelopment, development and development planning as presented in most of the scientific and popular economic literature and in the plans of developing countries is heavily biased in a direction that is basically opportunistic. Policy conclusions are therefore founded upon ideas about reality that are systematically though unintentionally falsified. Studies are expected to reach opportune conclusions and to appear in a form that is regarded as advantageous, or at least not disadvantageous, to national interests as these are officially and popularly understood, (for example in terms of the political and military interest in saving the country in question from domination by another ideological bloc). Research also tends to become diplomatic, conciliatory and generally over-optimistic, by-passing facts (such as the effect of corruption) that raise awkward problems, concealing them in an unduly technical terminology, or treating them in an excusing, condescending way. A more fundamental deficiency is that the approach to development problems derives from the attitudes and institutions in the developing countries and assumes that models and methods applicable to developed countries are universally valid. Whereas purely economic models may be adequate to developed countries, the attitudes and institutions in developing countries are less permissive of development and are much more rigid. These factors are not taken into account by the great majority who are involved in the problems of development (whether as students, in politics or in practice) who have a vested interest in the more conventional approach.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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