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The Hiding Hand: A Rejoinder to Flyvbjerg on Hirschman

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  • Room, Graham

Abstract

In a recent article in World Development, Flyvbjerg confronted Hirschman’s principle of the “Hiding Hand” and “providential” or “beneficial ignorance” (World Development Vol 84, pp 176–189). This states that development projects typically incur major cost overruns and other implementation problems, which put in question the decision to launch them in the first place. Indeed, had these difficulties been known in advance, the projects might never have been tried. Flyvbjerg challenges the empirical validity of this principle and the sloppiness of Hirschman’s own argument. This rejoinder, while accepting that Hirschman presents his argument less than well, argues that Flyvbjerg is too quick to dismiss it, and that by taking account of Hirschman’s scholarship more broadly, much of his approach remains valuable.

Suggested Citation

  • Room, Graham, 2018. "The Hiding Hand: A Rejoinder to Flyvbjerg on Hirschman," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 366-368.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:103:y:2018:i:c:p:366-368
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.10.015
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2016. "The Fallacy of Beneficial Ignorance: A Test of Hirschman’s Hiding Hand," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 176-189.
    2. Jeremy Adelman, 2013. "Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9935.
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