Edward E. Baptist responds to the Economist’s deplorable review of his new book about slavery:

If you write about the history of slavery, you become used to the pattern: No matter how many accounts you cite from ex-slaves, people often say they need more information before they can accept what former cotton pickers say about how cotton picking worked. And when we’re talking about contemporary events, the presumptive doubt is just as bad.

This passage stands out for me because it rings true in development circles as well. There’s always an echo chamber of development critics whining that there’s not enough data for this assumption or enough data for that conclusion. I saw this refrain repeated in reviews of Dayo Olopade’s Bright Continent and Easterly’s Tyranny of Experts.

There’s always a corner in the development punch bowl screaming that there’s not enough rum, even if the bowl is full of nothing but rum. Some diehards can’t be pleased, no matter how crystal clear the evidence is. Cognitive dissonance of the intellectual class.

via The Economists review of my book reveals how white people still refuse to believe black people about being black | Edward E Baptist | Comment is free | theguardian.com.