Rav Casley Gera is the founder and lead researcher of Brass Tacks. He started the series because, in his own words,

I was sick of hearing endless dissenting voices on TV, in papers, and on the net, screaming and shouting and insulting each other while supposedly discussing the important issues of the day. People need more than just a range of voices to make up their minds on the matters that concern them. They need a full, reasoned debate, with opinion-formers presenting their evidence and being responded to fully and frankly. The major issues facing us – poverty, climate change, conflict – are more disputes of economic and scientific theory than moral philosophy. People must be given the facts they need to make an informed decision.

The principles of Brass Tacks require researchers to “make their personal political affiliations, opinions, and instincts known to the audience.” So what are Rav’s?

Well, you could describe me as left wing, in the sense that most young people in Britain probably are; I’ve voted Labour, I marched against the war, and so on. I’m actually a member of the Labour party, which is a bit more unusual, especially nowadays. I’ve always found myself between the two main wings of ‘the left,’ disagreeing with some of the Government’s policies, such as ID cards, but finding a lot of the left-wing critique of the government silly and simplistic. But I’d say there are very few issues over the last few years where I’ve felt informed enough to form a precise position, two where I did being the war in Iraq (against) and tuition fees (against).

As far as Africa goes, I’ve always been very aware of the ongoing tragedy of Africa, and annoyed at the relative lack of coverage it gets in the media compared to less deadly events, like the 9/11, the Asian tsunami, or the ongoing ruckus in the Middle East. In 2005 I wore a Make Poverty History wristband, and I suppose my instinct was that the proposals being made by the Make Poverty History / Africa Commission / UN Millennium Development Project coalition were fairly reasonable. However, this was really based on no more than the fact that a lot of people who seemed to have thought a lot about development backed them, and a lot of those who didn’t seemed to have only a passing interest in development as part of their wider concern with economics or growth.

A I heard more and more of the arguments against aid, changes to trade rules, and debt relief, I decided I couldn’t keep assuming they were wrong without investigating. So African Development for the Completely Bloody Ignorant came partly out of my sense that the proposals supported by that broad coalition needed to be tested, and in such a way that average people like me could understand them, so that we can support them with confidence.

So I wouldn’t say I’m going into this with the opinion that the Make Poverty History proposals were the right ones; but I suppose I do have the hope that they are. I thought the campaign was pretty glorious, and some of my favourite people (i.e. Bono) were behind it. I do kind of want to be able to stand up at the end of the process and say, “they got it right.” But that just makes it more important for me to interrogate the proposals properly. The more a scientist wants his theory to be true, the more rigorously he tests it, so that he can prove it without any doubt. I aim to apply the same rigour here. Feel free to tell me if you think I’m slipping!

Apart from researching Brass Tacks, Rav publishes a blog on a wide range of topics, which you can find at casleygera.com. He also directs plays occasionally, although with this going on he doesn’t think he’s going to do another one for a while.

More about Rav

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