Saturday, March 22, 2014

An Alternative Easterly Road to Development

Over the past century, global poverty has largely been viewed as a technical problem that merely requires the right “expert” solutions. Yet all too often, experts recommend solutions that fix immediate problems without addressing the systemic political factors that created them in the first place. Further, they produce an accidental collusion with “benevolent autocrats,” leaving dictators with yet more power to violate the rights of the poor.
In The Tyranny of ExpertsNew York University economics professor William Easterly, bestselling author of The White Man’s Burden, traces the history of the fight against global poverty, showing not only how these tactics have trampled the individual freedom of the world’s poor, but how in doing so have suppressed a vital debate about an alternative approach to solving poverty: freedom.
 Presenting a wealth of cutting-edge economic research, Easterly argues that only a new model of development—one predicated on respect for the individual rights of people in developing countries, that understands that unchecked state power is the problem and not the solution —will be capable of ending global poverty once and for all.

Review in the Wall St Journal  by Sarah Chayes
"Mr. Easterly's alternative to the autocrat-driven, technocratic model of development is simple: Apply abroad what we know has worked at home—bottom-up solutions, a free flow of ideas leading to innovative experiments and democratic politics."
Review by Geoff Lamb (who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
"It’s an odd jumble of a book."
Review by David Roodman
"Through choice quotes, an Easterly trademark, the book dramatizes how rife is the “technocratic illusion” in the development business today. In particular, the technocratic illusion “would capture Bill Gates and Tony Blair” and World Bank president Jim Kim."
"In sum, I think this book, like its predecessor, gets tripped up in places by ill-defined abstractions. Just as searchers and planners are usually the same (when Steve Jobs’s told his people to create the iPad, was that top-down planning or “spontaneous” problem solving by a market actor?), the phraseology in “tyranny of experts” tends to blur distinct groups. There are autocrats who adopt with various degrees of sincerity the rhetoric of centrally planned development and then use it to rationalize human rights violations. There are foreign institutions that collaborate with them, sometimes for the best humanitarian reasons, sometimes out of geo-realpolitik. There are the less-powerful human beings within those institutions, who are seemingly the “experts” and “economists” in this book’s title. I think it is a mistake to simply tar one group with the sins of another."
Hear it on Audible

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