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The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Goodby William Easterly
"This is the season for critiques of global misadventures, and William Easterly has written a valuable one....His analysis is depressing but quite readable....Easterly's dissection of the interventionist impulse of the Planners is powerful. His enthusiasm for the bottom-up successes of the Searchers is less so. He's looking hard for something encouraging to say, but it's a measure of the potency of his corrosive analysis that the good news isn't very convincing." David Ignatius, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
William Easterly's The White Man's Burden is about what its author calls the twin tragedies of global poverty. The first, of course, is that so many are seemingly fated to live horribly stunted, miserable lives and die such early deaths. The second is that after fifty years and more than $2.3 trillion in aid from the West to address the first tragedy, it has shockingly little to show for it. We'll never solve the first tragedy, Easterly argues, unless we figure out the second.
The ironies are many: We preach a gospel of freedom and individual accountability, yet we intrude in the inner workings of other countries through bloated aid bureaucracies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank that are accountable to no one for the effects of their prescriptions. We take credit for the economic success stories of the last fifty years, like South Korea and Taiwan, when in fact we deserve very little. However, we reject all accountability for pouring more than half a trillion dollars into Africa and other regions and trying one "big new idea" after another, to no avail. Most of the places in which we've meddled are in fact no better off or are even worse off than they were before. Could it be that we don't know as much as we think we do about the magic spells that will open the door to the road to wealth?
Absolutely, William Easterly thunders in this angry, irreverent, and important book. He contrasts two approaches: (1) the ineffective planners' approach to development — never able to marshal enough knowledge or motivation to get the overambitious plans implemented to attain the plan's arbitrary targets and (2) a more constructive searchers' approach — always on the lookout for piecemeal improvements to poor peoples' well-being, with a system to get more aid resources to those who find things that work. Once we shift power and money from planners to searchers, there's much we can do that's focused and pragmatic to improve the lot of millions, such as public health, sanitation, education, roads, and nutrition initiatives. We need to face our own history of ineptitude and learn our lessons, especially at a time when the question of our ability to "build democracy," to transplant the institutions of our civil society into foreign soil so that they take root, has become one of the most pressing we face.
"Proffering no blueprint for bringing poverty and disease to an end, Easterly does set the terms for a debate over how to give foreign aid a new start." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Easterly asks the right questions, combining compassion with clear-eyed empiricism. Bono and his devotees should heed what he has to say." The New York Times
"What makes this book valuable is its devastating detail....Easterly's dissection of the interventionist impulse of the Planners is powerful." Washington Post
"[An] important book..." Los Angeles Times
"[W]ritten in the same engaging, detail-rich style that characterized his earlier The Elusive Quest for Growth." San Francisco Chronicle
"[A] radical oversimplification..." Foreign Affairs
A professor of economics pens an informed and excoriating attack on the tragic waste, futility, and hubris of the West's efforts to date to improve the lot of the so-called developing world, and provides constructive suggestions on how to move forward.
From one of the worldand#146;s best-known development economistsand#151;an excoriating attack on the tragic hubris of the Westand#146;s efforts to improve the lot of the so-called developing world
In his previous book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, William Easterly criticized the utter ineffectiveness of Western organizations to mitigate global poverty, and he was promptly fired by his then-employer, the World Bank. The White Manand#146;s Burden is his widely anticipated counterpunchand#151;a brilliant and blistering indictment of the Westand#146;s economic policies for the worldand#146;s poor. Sometimes angry, sometimes irreverent, but always clear-eyed and rigorous, Easterly argues that we in the West need to face our own history of ineptitude and draw the proper conclusions, especially at a time when the question of our ability to transplant Western institutions has become one of the most pressing issues we face.
From one of the worlds best-known development economists—an excoriating attack on the tragic hubris of the Wests efforts to improve the lot of the so-called developing world
In his previous book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, William Easterly criticized the utter ineffectiveness of Western organizations to mitigate global poverty, and he was promptly fired by his then-employer, the World Bank. The White Mans Burden is his widely anticipated counterpunch—a brilliant and blistering indictment of the Wests economic policies for the worlds poor. Sometimes angry, sometimes irreverent, but always clear-eyed and rigorous, Easterly argues that we in the West need to face our own history of ineptitude and draw the proper conclusions, especially at a time when the question of our ability to transplant Western institutions has become one of the most pressing issues we face.
About the Author
William Easterly is a professor of economics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. He was a senior research economist at the World Bank for more than sixteen years. In addition to his academic work, he has written widely in recent years for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, and Foreign Policy, among others. He is the author of the acclaimed book The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. He has worked in many areas of the developing world, most extensively in Africa, Latin America, and Russia.
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