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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 Good
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From one of the world?s best-known development economists?an excoriating attack on the tragic hubris of the West?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 Man?s Burden is his widely anticipated counterpunch?a brilliant and blistering indictment of the West?s economic policies for the world?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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Both some good points and some ranting
    Easterly's central theme is that the West is spending a fortune on foreign aid yet cheap simple things (bed nets for $4, malaria medicine at 20c a dose) don't get delivered to the poor. Increasing spending isn't the answer as it isn't lack of money that is causing these failures. Easterly lays the blame on high-level utopian planning that is far too disjoint from what the poor need.

    He presents data that shows that economic success isn't tied to aid delivery and that aid programs have done very little to help the poor. But the West keeps applying the same broken formulas. Easterly asserts that what is needed isn't more money, but better spending.

    Easterly argues that it is easy to dream up grand utopian plans, but these are typically focused on making the donors feel good and ignore the realities of actual local situations and needs. There is no feedback loop from the intended recipients, so money is easily lost or wasted. He argues that more aid should be driven by what he calls "Searchers" (bottom-up pragmatists) and much less by "Planners" (top-down bureaucrats). The West shouldn't seek to reform countries or economies wholesale. Rather it should work on delivering lots of piecemeal localized improvements that can be individually analyzed, evaluated, and either abandoned or refined.

    He gives examples of the vast bureaucratic efforts spent on aid summits, planning frameworks and reports. These consume lots of energy in both the aid organizations and (worse) in the over-burdened target governments. He recycles the amusing point that if you apply the standard doctrines of two of the largest aid agencies (the World Bank and the IMF) to the aid process itself, they would insist that it abandon central planning and grand schemes and instead move to privatization and market-based mechanisms.

    He observes that many of the target governments are wildly dysfunctional. Aid money (like oil revenue) is treated as a resource that can be exploited. However, in his proposed solutions he tends to ignore that aspect. If governments have a tendency to steal or misspend their aid budgets, then donor groups are bound to demand detailed plans and reports. And I doubt if those governments will tolerate groups that try to bypass them. Unfortunately it is exactly those countries with the worst governments that most need help.

    Easterly sometimes comes across as overly dogmatic in his emphasis on "Searchers" and his attacks on "Planners". However he does a good job of making his core points: the West should show much more humility, avoid grand plans and look for detailed programs that actually help the poor and allow for both feedback and remedy.
    ...more info
  • Applied Economic Logic for Policy Implementers
    Professor Easterly lays out convincing analysis for the lack of results in areas of foreign aid and development. His synopsis of altruistic planners developing overambitious plans with little historic and cultural knowledge of the people they want to "help" enlightens readers. Easterly proscribes no overarching strategy or plan, rather a new approach to actually having an impact. He proposes that small, targeted piecemeal efforts with accountability have been the only assistance that has made a true impact. His recommendations will be sure to receive resistance in the aid community, as well as by policy makers appealing to US constituencies. However, those who count the unfortunate people in developing countries as their accountable agents will find this book helpful.
    Professor Easterly speaks from experience as an economist with the World Bank for over sixteen years. As someone who understands global economic assistance from the inside, his legitimacy carries weight. His humor finds an audience with those of us who have been struggling on the ground trying to enact policies and interventions dreamed up in Washington, New York, London, and elsewhere. The cheeky attitude adds the right touch to the basic economic models and logic referenced within.
    This is applied economics at its best. Well worth the read for all policy makers and implementers, whether in government, the military, NGOs or other philanthropists.
    ...more info
  • This is an education for all who care to be informed
    This book attempts, and succeeds, in informing us on the "blowback" effects of our past foreign policies. We have participated in putting the world in the condition it is in right now!!! US, read it and weep!!...more info
  • Easterly is a brilliant economist, but should stay away from military policy
    In this book Easterly provides a very nice overview of current foreign aid policies of governments and international organizations, and why they have done so little to help the poor world. Lack of accountability, perverse incentives, and a "central planning" mindset has hurt, rather than helped, the poor world in Easterly's view.

    The latter part of the book proves to be rather disappointing, however. Here, Easterly tries to prove that military interventions (peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and invasions) have not been very effective in bringing about peace and prosperity in the target countries. Easterly is probably right, but the evidence is lacking, and Easterly comes across rather emotional and, well, rather flippant in this part of the book.

    Easterly is a brilliant development economist who has done much to press forward the debate on foreign aid and development practices. However, he is no national security expert, if one should judge by his chapters on military interventions.......more info
  • This book was long overdue
    While in my late twenties I traveled throughout the third world for nearly four years like a forerunner to the present day backpackers. Of the zillions of situations I encountered while staying in flea bag hotels, riding chicken buses, going deck passage on over crowded freighters, hitch hiking through central Africa, one memory stands out. I was crossing through Tanzanian immigration near Arusha. The Black Tanzanian immigration officer asked an older Austrian gentleman in front of me what his occupation was. The Austrian in broken English replied, "I'm an expert." To which the Tanzanian remarked, "Just what we need, another expert!"
    I can wait for the paperback to come out. I'm still a penny pincher. ...more info
  • Right on for Africa
    I've been living and working in Africa for over 23 years and this book hits the nail on the head. I've seen so many of my projects and those of my colleagues fail because we didn't apply the principles in this book. It is still difficult, but small, family-sized projects are the most sustainable and easier to monitor. This book has been a great aid as I continue to learn how to stand with the people we live among....more info
  • Non-partisan critique of international do-gooding
    When the IMF and World Bank take it upon themselves to `fix' a failing country I have to believe their intentions are generally pure, more or less. The process works like this: the West makes loans of millions or billions to a country. In return the loan recipients will impose "structural adjustments" on the country as dictated by the IMF/World Bank. The structural adjustments are intended to create a free-market, neo-liberal economy with accelerated economic growth. As the countries GDP grows the government will be flush with money and more than capable of paying back the loans. The problem is that this top down approach to fixing world poverty is simply not working. In fact it's worse than not working it's creating more problems than solutions.

    White Man's Burden is filled with empirical evidence that organizations like the IMF, World Bank and other poverty reducing multinational organizations have tended to exasperate structural deficiencies in failing nations. For instance by propping up poor and corrupt leadership and creating a system of dependency. There appears to be a direct inverse correlation between the levels of funding a country has received from the World Bank and the health of its finances. The author states that, "the right plan is to have no plan". His urge is to press for a bottom up approach that tries to tackle smaller problems. One of the great success stories has been in the area of reducing preventable deaths as in combating malaria and diarrhea. Another area of progress is in education. Unfortunately the IMF and World Bank have obsessed over large scale social engineering programs.

    Iraq is the perfect example of top down social engineering. The country was invaded, shattered and rebuilt in the West's own image. Iraq's imposed structure is more than just an emulation of the West it is a neo-liberal's dream come true. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) under Paul Bremer issued 100 Orders defined as "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people" with "penal consequences". These `Orders' were intended to create a free market economy with a highly regressive tax structure. The orders allowed 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi business, privatized Iraq's 200 state-owned enterprises, dropped corporate tax rate from 40% to 15% and capped income tax rates a 15%. Some rules like order #17 which granted foreign contractors full immunity from Iraq's laws is a slap in the face to the Iraqi people and Order #81 which prohibits Iraqi farmers from using the methods of agriculture they have used for centuries seems reminiscent of something Chairman Mao would have dictated. Iraq is an extreme example but restructuring governments has been going on for hundreds of years going back to colonialization and rarely ends well. The IMF and World Bank need to stop trying to imagine that there is a one size fits all solution to poverty. They also need to realize that forcefully imposing economic planning on a country is anti-democratic and often benefits the few at the expense of many. Globalization and structural adjustments have only increased the disparity in wealth across the world by among other things devastating local farming.

    The author's solution is to stop trying to throw more money at the problem. Address the problem in a market based manner with the poor as the consumer rather than the wealthy western countries. Analyze the effectiveness of programs and look for solutions that work. As Scrooge McDuck said, `Work smarter not harder'. Stop subsidizing dictators and change loans to grants (the IMF is already moving in this direction). As hard as it may be to accept sometimes the best solution is just to sit back and let things work themselves out on there own.

    BTW: The current World Bank president, appointed by George W. Bush, is neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the Iraqi war. How lovely.
    ...more info
  • Lots of studies and graphs
    I really thought I'd like this book but I think, having worked at the World Bank, he fails to take a critical look at some of their policies. If you want to see the real effect of "foreign aid" take a look at "Life and Debt" the movie or "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man".

    He talks of "top down" initiatives not working and he's right, but then takes way too long to make his point and the whole time I read it, I was thinking, "wait, what about what Perkins said about development corporations tricking countries into taking out more loans than they can repay for more infrastructure projects than they need, to grow their incomes less than they need to repay the loans?" and "what about countries like Jamaica that end up worse off because of the "foreign aid" that is tying up all their capital in interest at tremendous rates and killing their growth?" ON paper it looks like there is some growth but it is in the form of sweatshops that bring down the quality of life of the majority, not improvements in the lives of the poor.

    It's like he is talking apples and oranges - sometimes he refers to quality of life for the poor but then the "proof" comes in the form of GDP, which could easily reflect only improvements in the richest portion of the country while the poor continue to go under at an ever-increasing rate.

    The book is also redundant to a boring degree. ...more info
  • Many (most?) foreign-aid programs hold back local institutions, local markets, and local searches for solutions
    Why do World Bank billions, U.S. Agency for International Development grants, and International Monetary Fund "Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility" loans disappear into the sand, for the most part? As Easterly shows, these programs are designed primarily to reflect the interests of the donors ("The Rich") and their perceptions of what is best for the recipients ("The Rest"). Every few years, a G-8 summit of world leaders or a similar gathering declares a grand utopian "big push" to eradicate poverty in Africa or to provide universal access to water and sanitation or to accomplish a similar objective. The current Big Idea is the set of eight "Millennium Development Goals" for 2015, launched with great fanfare at the United Nations in September 2000. Because most of the goals are utopian, they not only fail, but they divert resources from activities that might actually do some good.

    Problems are compounded because the donors' cash is administered by "the Planners" (aid bureaucrats), who are largely unaccountable for results. Top-down goal setting and the planning mentality effectively shut out information about what is really needed on the ground and any useful feedback about why projects fail or, in rare circumstances, succeed. Compounding these inherent weaknesses of Rich largesse for the Rest, most of the poor countries have bad governments, wherein aid money is siphoned off to Swiss bank accounts, and corrupt officials sabotage the workings of rudimentary markets, increasing the cost of doing business and discouraging private investment.

    What is needed, according to Easterly, are empowered "Searchers" on the ground--business or nonprofit entrepreneurs, for instance--who understand the needs of the poor and the institutions within which they live, who have tangible incentives to meet those needs, and who are encouraged to experiment on a small scale. A excellent example Easterly gives is the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets in Malawi for protection against malaria.

    The local office of a U.S nonprofit developed this program, which pays for itself. The nets are sold for fifty cents each to poor mothers through antenatal clinics in rural areas. The nurses get nine cents for each sale, which provides a tangible incentive for them to tout the nets to mothers and to keep them in stock. The nonprofit also sells nets for five dollars to richer Malawians, which subsidizes the fifty-cent sales. This model for distributing the nets has been shown to be significantly more effective than simply giving them away. Nearly everyone who buys a net uses it, whereas as many as 70 percent of the recipients who receive a free net do not bother to use it.

    Despite his robust attacks on the foreign-aid mainstream and its institutional embodiments, such as the World Bank, Easterly suggests that there is room for modest interventions, particularly in such areas as public health (recall the success story about the mosquito nets). Such activity can be subject to an experimental quasi-market process whereby the potential aid recipients select the agency to deliver the assistance, perhaps through a voucher system. The spirit of Easterly's approach is captured by his characterization of his own suggestion as possibly "the stupidest idea ever, except for all the ideas that have already failed in foreign aid" (p. 379).

    Free markets work, Easterly emphasizes, but they cannot be imposed; to work effectively they need a supportive political and institutional environment, as any student of the former USSR or the U.S. health-care system can attest. For developing countries especially, the emergence of effective markets will be in "piecemeal, experimental steps." To reinforce this point, Easterly highlights the World Bank's "Doing Business" project, perhaps the most effective antipoverty initiative in its entire history, in my view.

    The bank documented the time and cost of such activities as starting a business, getting credit, and enforcing contracts in 155 countries. It then constructed and published (with yearly updates) an index of the ease of doing business in each country, [...]. The correlation between "ease of doing business" and income per capita is striking.... Today, government ministers in dozens of countries are publicly striving to move up in the rankings--and are claiming credit when licenses are eliminated and nuisance taxes abolished, as I observed recently in Turkey. In other words, peer-group pressure generated by widespread publicity of such indices may be even more effective than trying, in effect, to bribe ministers to adopt sensible policies with nonsensical loans and grants.

    Easterly's points are enhanced by his historical perspective and a lucid pen, as well as by his substantial published research and time spent in developing countries. However, his thesis is muddied somewhat by an extended foray into political science and an attempt to evaluate the costs to the growth of developing countries incurred by British colonialism and U.S. Cold War interventions. In addition, his analysis gives insufficient attention to the not-infrequent occasions when major donors use multilateral lending and grants to reward friends and withhold them to discipline the recalcitrant.

    ...more info
  • Good Analysis; Weak Vision
    Easterly's analysis of some of the inefficiencies of foreign aid that explain its weak effectiveness is very relevant. His arguments concerning foreign aid institutions lack of accountability, compounded with their incapacity to integrate the poor people's preferences (the very people they are supposed to help) in order to deliver valued and useful public goods is very revealing. However, Easterly's analysis does not give any convincing and politically realist ways foreign aid can be made more efficient. It is not forseable that searchers apply and obtain grants for any projects they can conceive without any coherent way of atributing foreign aid besides supply of funds where there is a serious demand for funds for foreign aid. Foreign aid cannot work in the same way that private or financial markets do, simly because they do not have the same objectives, and do not have the same ethical considerations (amongst other differences). Overall, it is a good read....more info
  • Right On Point
    This book has a wealth of information, but is chock full of technical statistical jargon and results which makes it quite a challenge to read. It however presents extremely relevant compelling facts and arguments.

    I just hope the policy makers & development practitioners in Washington use it to educate themselves, instead of wasting money on dead-end poverty eradication initiatives and wasteful aid packages....more info
  • A book to shake up paradigms on economic development aid
    William Easterly uses a direct and facts supported language. He openly criticizes aid efforts done by international agencies where, most of the time, nobody is accountable for results, and also where invariably large economic funds are channeled through incompetent, corrupt, and sometimes tyranic local governments. The author encourages the aid donors to make sure the funds reach the most needed, skipping the big plans built from top down, and instead helping the searchers (individuals that find solutions to practical problems) do their effective work. Through decades he cites many examples that give light to succesful efforts (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and so forth) where the white man's hand was no visible at all.

    Easterly's work views the zaga for helping the poor totally different from what Jeffrey Sachs asserts on his book, The End of Poverty. Easterly gives strong reasons to predict that the strategy behind the Millenium Goals will fall short, once again proving that bureaucratic schemes don't work and only provide arguments for rich governments to justify that much is being done on economic improvement for the poor nations.

    I strongly recommend Easterly's White Man's Burden book, especially to people really interested on building succesful development strategies. Besides, Easterly is much in line on what Amartya Sen wrote in his magnificent book "Development as Freedom".

    ...more info
  • A thoughtful approach to an emotional topic.
    When a group of people who have a lot are exposed to the plight of those who do not, there is a visceral reaction sparking a desire to help immediately. To most people, it doesn't matter how the help is delivered, just so we do something, anything to help.

    Easterly begins his analysis of the West's foreign aid efforts with that noble intuition and then does what so many people fail to do; he digs into whether our well-intended efforts have paid off or not. His results are discouraging. $2.3 TRILLION of aid from the West to the Rest (as he calls it) has done very little to actually improve the lives of those who live there. Easterly's book is all about statistically demonstrating the general ineffectiveness of the West's aid, breaking it down into differing types of ineffective aid and showing why each type of aid fails.

    But all is not lost. Easterly is not against aiding the Rest, but he does believe that continuing to presesnt aid in ways that have always failed is a truly sorry approach to the problem. Easterly gives many examples of programs that have worked and picks out the defining qualities that differentiate them from the programs that fail. By the end of the book, you have a much better understanding of how we might more effectively approach helping the rest of the world get on its own two economic feet.

    A very good book. Highly recommended....more info
  • 100th Anniversary of Similar Issues and Reactions
    One theme of the book is a rebuke of Sachs' "The End of Poverty" which describes the UN Millenium Project goal to collect something like 0.7% of the GDP of the world's rich countries to aid those earning less than $1 or $2 per day (a billion people) and wipe out poverty. Sachs might argue that the $2.3 trillion over 50 years is less than 1% of the US GDP alone and not as significant as some make it sound. Easterly argues that with all the money sent to East Central Africa people don't have the $4 mosquito netting or cheap malaria pills... Although I don't remember Easterly offering a particular solution to this (he's not about particular solutions, but a relatively broad method (something like a "planners", but probably more accurately called a meta-method of test-feedback-improve (not a terribly innovate thought, but apparently all-too-often overlooked...))), there were notions of bringing market forces to play, the apparent default panacea of economists.

    Easterly repeatedly calls for "piecemeal" solutions to particular (tractable) problems while Sachs calls for a holistic approach in which different systems are needed support each other -- a simlified example is something like having roads to go with fertilizer so the added crops can get somewhere to be sold. The debate's not resolved for me by these 2 books.

    A potential motivation for the author could be a self-distancing atonement for admitted mistakes while with the World Bank...

    Easterly denounces the notions of "planning" activities such as the millenium project on principle of not having enough understanding and feedback or appreciation for their complexities (and historical failures of similar methods/plans) and ignoring the localized, technical considerations -- like beauracracies not supporting successfully- and locally- initiated schools (but what is this really a result of?). And I don't know that there was enough information to indicate where the programs are ineffective: planning, implementation, corruption, etc. Do all the aid workers work for a short time and leave and leave no useful information behind? Why, given a failed irrigation system, would similarly problematic systems continue? Easterly says to make the responsible (but is that with any more resolve than a "planners"?) It certainly seems to be contengent on a number of factors... Ironically Easterly criticizes the Seeker-like qualities in the quintessential "Planner" Sachs for having too many particular and too technical ideas...

    After slogging through the text (including the preoccupation and inconsistent characterizations of "searcher" and "planner" -- there's no point in getting bogged down with the terms, by the end of the book all they could possibly be left to mean are "good" and "bad", respectively) the message apparently comes down to ___having feedback (market practices) on aid programs and not being stupid___. OK...

    It's probably of interest to the helpfully-inclined to be skeptical about their aid dollars (see Maren below for a more striking description), but for the aid community there may be little new information (see E. D. Morel's attacks of the so-called "civilization" of many of the same areas 100 years ago, or for a novel-like reading in a few chapters, see Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" -- which gives insight into how helpful-minded and corrupt people interacted in "aid" enterprises). That being said, given current practices of aid (glaringly: Katrina) organizations are still have problems. (I was hoping for some indications of the same type of solutions for the poor or uneducated in America, but that may have been against the "searcher" philosophy, though is undoubtedly covered by many other economists...)

    Another notion that needs clarification is the distinction between those who are trying to do good (from utopians in charge or sending cash and those in the field) and those who are merely working under the guise of doing good (the Leopold II's of today, certain "receivers", orgs, etc.)-- I think Easterly implies this, but the (imposible?) distinction is often at least muddy if not ignored. Michael Maren's "The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity" described the naively altruistic and active corruption of both aid agencies and some individuals associated with receivership. Easterly's stated focus is on those who try to do well but set up situations that don't have the correct tensions to work -- pie-in-the-sky celebrities or politicians and aid agency marketeers -- one example was in creating an irrigation system that needed less interdependence of individuals than the old system, but got none and became worse than the old, technically worse system. Maren pointed out things like dumping so much food into an area that local farmers went out of business, or housing for refuges nicer than the locals'... Sachs claimed that corruption was not a major factor in the countries getting or needing the most aid... It's hard to see through differences like these.

    Easterly provides some statistics and inferences on a very broad scale (planners'-eye view?) that appear interesting -- no improvement in countries that get more aid. I find it hard to appreciate from the text alone the separation of variables that makes the assertions credible. A simple associated question is, "How would the country have done without aid?" or "How do you separate out variables such as government practices, corruption, existing infrastructure, morale, etc.?". Easterly makes comparisons between countries' progress and aid levels and does ask the reader to look at some other sources for statistical support.

    I was hoping for more information, especially on China's and India's development models (I thought Easterly missed the idea of international support for Japan after WWII, and I'm sure there are dramatically different colonial considerations between Africa, the Americas and especially India and Asia...), as examples of countries that developed without the amount of aid put into Africa (and how can you statistically separate influences like, say, Mao or to kick out the British and have your country split in half...). If China had a "plan" to gradually phase out quotas by freezing them leaving additional production as profit incentive, is this something we can take feedback from? If micro-loans worked so well (how well?) in India (I think Easterly mentioned them), is that a notion of a plan? I think Easterly backlashes against mistakes of Russian Shock Therapy (was he responsible for them then?). What are the conclusions that can be drawn from certain successes?

    I did find ungratifying the regular refusal to suggest solutions more than the (pedantically?) high level methodologies. I can appreciate a backlash from historically problematic situations, and wanting to take a step back from mistakes in order to get perspective, but that's not a thesis.

    Maybe a "searcher" idea would be to get "planners" to collect support (they're historically good at that and should use their skills) and then have "searchers" make sensible uses of the more than abundant resources. (Or would that be too much like a plan? :-))

    My take-away is a refreshed notion of mere good intentions and open-ended systems in general not being effective. I expected more, but it may be a useful introduction of considerations and high-level methods for altruists to be more effective.

    ...more info
  • how good people turn billions of dollars into nothing
    The author is the most dangerous type of writer to challenge the establishment. Not only does he have a passion of reforming international aid, but his sixteen years working for the World Bank, means that he knows the real system, inside and out. He is not just an ivory tower academic; he has been there and done that.

    The author challenges the immense organizations cultures who, despite the best intentions, have managed to do little good despite spending billions of dollars of foreign aid. He is very critical of Western advisors, especially economists, who claim their magic formulas can fix any economy from Asia, to Russia, to Africa. The author, like many foreign aid experts, gets sidetracked into the goal of democracy and gets the concepts of economic assistance and democratic progress all mixed up. If fixing the economies of Africa is not tough enough, the attempts to make them democracies at the same time is flat out foolish.

    I feel like I really got a first hand look into the mindset of the international aid community. The only fault is that the author really does not offer any great ways to fix the problem. Most of the book is attacking the current system. He does promote micro-lending, but his best example is when the World Bank paid Mexican parents to keep their kids in school. I am not sure that is the type of policy you want to highlight to the American people. Paying people to force their children to attend school is not going to make a developing country into Sweden. Despite the lack of a real answer to foreign aid, the book is worth reading for the insiders views of the foreign aid empires.
    ...more info
  • $2.3 Trillion and Counting, And Nothing to Show
    This book is not what I would call a well-written book. It is, in fact, quite tedious to read, due to the writing style of the author - he often belabors a point to death. This is especially so for what I imagine to be his target audience, who would not be exposed to many of his notions for the first time.

    Now I do think this book is well-worth my reading time. Reading this book is, to be truthful, quite sobering. Some of us hold the notions of democracy and free market in such high regard that it is almost a faith - no doubt to some it is a faith - and that is the simple solution for the affairs of mankind. Easterly shatters that simplistic view by showing readers that, although democracy and free market are good, cannot be engineered with a template for a quick success, and surely they cannot be imposed from the outside -- past efforts in this regard have yielded a dismal track record at best, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

    Successful democratic institutions have always been a result of evolution, based on the culture and traditions of a people, and through gradual changes and adaptations, the direction pace of which is largely determined by the people themselves. This is how democratic systems take hold. This is a disturbing revelation to the "planners", liberal and conservative alike, who believe that with good intentions and good methods and lots of money, they can do no wrong.

    Interestingly, on these review pages, some criticized Easterly for offering only anecdotes of small successes but no real scalable solutions. These critics completely missed the author's main point: there are no "scalable" solutions.

    ...more info
  • Leaves the track
    This is an interesting book as long as it stays on topic: why aid efforts do little good. The author's answer -- that there is too much bureaucracy and not enough entrepreneurship -- is given using coined jargon but the author is himself a creature of bureaucracy and that's the way it talks.

    But about half-way through, the book becomes a screed about what the author believes to be the West's foreign policy mistakes for the last 150 years. Their is nothing new or interesting in this, whether you agree with it or not. The book is worth about half its price unless you really want to read, for the umpteenth time, a solidly liberal analysis of everything from colonialism to Iraq. ...more info