Imponderable but Not Inevitable: Warfare in the 20th Century

Imponderable but Not Inevitable: Warfare in the 20th Century

Imponderable but Not Inevitable: Warfare in the 20th Century

Imponderable but Not Inevitable: Warfare in the 20th Century


Conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs) have become increasingly popular in low-income countries, particularly in Latin America. CCTs involve cash payments to poor families when they participate in educational, health-related, nutritional, or other services that could help lift them out of poverty. The apparent success of CCTs has led some development specialists to refer to CCTs as "a magic bullet."

Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America evaluates the effectiveness and reliability of CCTs in reducing poverty. The contributors synthesize evidence and analysis from four case studies of Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Using state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative methods, the studies examine various aspects of CCTs, including the trends in development and political economy that fostered interest in them; their impacts on education, health, nutrition, and food consumption; and how CCT programs affect- and how their outcomes are affected by- social relations shaped by gender, culture, and community. Throughout, the authors identify the strengths and weaknesses of CCTs and offer guidelines to those who design them.

Successful programs depend on a clear definition of program goals, adapting program design to a particular country's circumstances, effective communication with CCT beneficiaries, high-quality services, and an appreciation of social relations within a given community. This new study is a valuable resource for anyone trying to understand, implement, improve, and build on the success of established conditional cash transfer programs.


Our appreciation of imponderability and the notion of the improbable occurring when one least expects it have been given a massive jolt by the breathtaking success of The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s highly idiosyncratic but immensely stimulating book on the subject. While this book has no bell curves to circumvent and probably won’t be translated into forty languages, as the fictional Yevgenia Krasnova’s A Story of Recursion was supposed to have been, it still represents a fascinating plunge into a world that we habitually take for granted, namely, life and what happens to us when we are brought face to face with the more violent aspects of it.

A resort to arms is always unfortunate, for it is an expression of failure— a failure shared by all those who have created the problem in the first place or by their often unworthy successors. Those who take up arms do so, of course, for a variety of causes. Perhaps not all believe that warfare will cut the Gordian Knot that talk has failed to do, but for whatever reason they prefer violent action to consensual diplomacy. If history teaches us anything— and it ought to—warfare rarely solves anything and often complicates the mess that preceded it. Unfortunately, this realization is often subordinated to a vigorous belief that “this time” it will be different. One senses that the advocates of war firmly believe that victory on “this occasion” will be theirs. Past failures can be safely attributed to unwillingness on the part of certain belligerents to take drastic action against their foes. If one eliminates the constraints imposed by social conscience or moral imperatives, therefore, the act of war can be successfully applied and victory won, or so the theory goes. Warfare when applied without restraint is seen by these individuals as being truly . . .

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