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David Roodman's Microfinance Open Book Blog

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A couple more reviews of my book appeared in the digital ether this week. One is on the blog of MYC4, which is a European peer-to-peer lending site that typically does loans larger than Kiva. I think it's thoughtful and fair.

The other is on the site of the Whole Planet Foundation (you have to dig a bit on this page or go here). The Whole Planet Foundation's mission is "poverty alleviation through microcredit in communities worldwide that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products." I gather that when you check out at Whole Foods you can donate your change and then some to the foundation.

Reading the latter one, by Executive Program Director Steve Wanta, led me to reflect on what can make a review persuasive. I thought of two things. One is eminence. The reviewer's achievements and experience and position---who he is---can make him credible when he describes a book as insipid or brilliant. I think of Amartya Sen's review of Bill Easterly's second book and Bill Clinton's take on Robert Caro's latest opus on LBJ. But that avenue is not open to Wanta, not so much because he lacks the stature of Sen or Clinton, but because he has a professional, vested interest in what I critique. Who he is should make him compelling only to the converted.

The other avenue is evidence. I.e., backing up statements like "Roodman does not demonstrate the same statistical rigor for the potential adverse effects as he does for the positive effects of community building reported by the industry" with specifics. I tried to do something like what I have in mind in my biting review of Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid, which the Whole Planet Foundation deems "Compelling reading and a must read for anyone interested in African development." Or see Alex Counts's thorough examination of my book, which I still think is the best so far. At any rate, I think the Whole Planet review of my book does not persuade through either eminence or evidence.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.