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What’s the best way to help the world’s poor? Should we give them cash or chickens? Or is the best way to eradicate poverty something else entirely? This episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed back Lant Pritchett, of Harvard’s Center for International Development. Their starting point was a series of “letters” attempting to answer these questions, each initially responding to Bill Gates’s plan of providing chickens to the global poor.

Just how bad is the world poverty situation today, and what’s our best approach to reducing poverty in the world’s lowest productivity areas? Pritchett has his ideas, and Roberts is on board with some of them.

Why does Pritchett object to giving cash- or chickens- to people in poverty-stricken countries? What does he mean by making an analogy to a cancerous tumor?

What is the real value of academic research into global problems such as poverty? Pritchett takes his cue from Paul Krugman, and draws an analogy to a pile of gravel. How does Roberts react to this analogy? What are your thoughts on the current state of economic research in development?

Toward the end (43:24) of the conversation, Roberts and Pritchett discuss Adam Smith’s “presumption of liberty.” To what extent are we in danger of losing that presumption today? If the burden of proof shifts to be on those who favor liberty, what is the best way to make our case?

And…the big question. If you had $15 million to put toward global poverty alleviation, what would you do with it, and why???