Say it isn't so Dr. Olken. Please, say it isn't so. The root of all evil can't be television.

What about "The Wire?" I'm sure if Indonesian peasants were spending their time watching "The Wire" instead of normal TV, their social capital would increase hugely. Think of all the extra time spent around the watercooler puzzling over whether Omar's luck will ever run out...

Except their are no watercoolers in the jungles of Java. You've won this round Olken... But I'll be back.

P.S. I actually finished reading the article and it turns out that although television watching decreases social capital and attendance at village meetings, it has no effect on the quality of governance. Take home message: Don't bother trying to change things because evil always prevails; better to spend your time watching television so that you can escape from the cruel cruel world.

Take that Olken. Little did you know I had an ace up my sleeve going by the name of... Olken!


  1. Anonymous on 27 January 2009 at 17:03

    It seems from this para that people who love to make a nuisance of themselves at community meetings still do so... Television provides an alternative to people who don't find village meetings so entertaining:

    Despite the negative impact of better television reception on attendance at meetings, I
    find little evidence that this translated into worse outcomes for the road project. Even though it
    reduced attendance at meetings, greater television reception did not change the number of people
    at the road-building meetings who talked, the probability that a corruption-related problem was
    discussed at a meeting, or the probability that the meetings dedicated to project accountability
    voted to take any serious action, such as firing someone or calling for an outside audit, to resolve
    a problem. Moreover, better television reception was not associated with greater theft of funds from the road project, as measured by the difference between the road’s official cost and an
    engineer’s ex-post estimate of what the road actually cost to build. Though television and radio
    broadcasts are largely national, and rarely if ever report on individual villages, it is of course
    possible that media exposure affects village level governance through channels other than social
    capital. Considerable caution should therefore be used in interpreting the results on governance
    as identifying the causal effect of social capital per se on governance. However, it is worth
    noting that the lack of a negative effect of decreased participation on governance is consistent
    with my experimental results in the same setting, which showed little impact of increased
    participation on governance

  2. Gimpei on 27 January 2009 at 23:19

    Well it seems from that paragraph that corruption continues whether or not more of the community participates in group meetings. There could still be people making nuisances of themselves, but apparently not enough, since corruption is rampant.

    It's like the flaming lips say: Evil will always win.