Magazine April 6, 2020, Issue

Can Well-Designed Experiments Make the Case for Government Intervention?

Esther Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerjee following their Nobel lectures at Stockholm University in Sweden, December 8, 2019 (TT News Agency/Christine Olsson/Reuters)
Good Economics for Hard Times, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo (PublicAffairs, 432 pp., $30)

As a political independent, I had the privilege of reading Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Good Economics for Hard Times without assuming a defensive crouch. Their sometimes surprising, sometimes inconclusive attempts to measure the effects of popular policy ideas will frustrate anyone looking for a five-point plan. But for someone mistrustful of easy answers, it was a treat to see so many buzzword solutions subjected to experimental testing.

The authors, a married couple, are both economics professors at MIT. While it seems fair to conclude from their proposals that they are liberal, they cannot reasonably be called bleeding hearts. They won

This article appears as “Putting Government Intervention to the Test” in the April 6, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Laura Ball is a science journalist, a former Thiel Fellow, and a research assistant at Mila, the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute.

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