30 January 2012

South Sudan non sequitur

Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian
disputes over oil revenue-sharing, cross-border conflict, and looming famine. These multiple crises combine to pose a fundamental question: can South Sudan survive as a viable state?
Which in a slightly round-about way is a nice reminder of the tremendous benefits of studying economics. Economics teaches you a handful of incredibly powerful core concepts which, once assimilated, you kind of take for granted, and forget that not everybody intuitively thinks this way. Supply and demand. Incentives. Opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost means asking "compared to what." Can South Sudan survive as a viable state compared to what? A Khartoum-led state whose most significant offerings to the South over the last 50 years have been bombs? In what sense was the Khartoum-led state "viable" in the South over the last 50 years?

It's a bit like sceptically asking a daily victim of domestic violence for 50 years whether they are really being realistic thinking that they can survive as a viable independent household.

Would you rather live in a weak state or a state that is literally trying to kill you?

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