The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics / Edition 1

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Since the end of World War II, economists have tried to figure out how poor countries in the tropics could attain standards of living approaching those of countries in Europe and North America. Attempted remedies have included providing foreign aid, investing in machines, fostering education, controlling population growth, and making aid loans as well as forgiving those loans on condition of reforms. None of these solutions has delivered as promised. The problem is not the failure of economics, William Easterly argues, but the failure to apply economic principles to practical policy work.In this book Easterly shows how these solutions all violate the basic principle of economics, that people—private individuals and businesses, government officials, even aid donors—respond to incentives. Easterly first discusses the importance of growth. He then analyzes the development solutions that have failed. Finally, he suggests alternative approaches to the problem.

Written in an accessible, at times irreverent, style, Easterly's book combines modern growth theory with anecdotes from his fieldwork for the World Bank.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A highly readable and iconoclastic treatment of the determinants of economic growth." Richard N. Cooper Foreign Affairs

"It is impossible to convey the depth and range of The Elusive Quest for Growth." Bruce Bartlett The Wall Street Journal

"It is impossible to convey the depth and range of The Elusive Quest for Growth." Bruce Bartlett Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262550420
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/8/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 225,155
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

William Easterly is the author of The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT Press, 2001) and The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. He is Professor of Economics at New York University (Joint with Africa House), Codirector of NYU's Development Research Institute, visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Nonresident Fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Quest
I Why Growth Matters 1
1 To Help the Poor 5
Intermezzo: In Search of a River 16
II Panaceas That Failed 21
2 Aid for Investment 25
Intermezzo: Parmila 45
3 Solow's Surprise: Investment Is Not the Key to Growth 47
Intermezzo: Dry Cornstalks 70
4 Educated for What? 71
Intermezzo: Without a Refuge 85
5 Cash for Condoms? 87
Intermezzo: Tomb Paintings 99
6 The Loans That Were, the Growth That Wasn't 101
Intermezzo: Leila's Story 121
7 Forgive Us Our Debts 123
Intermezzo: Cardboard House 138
III People Respond to Incentives 141
8 Tales of Increasing Returns: Leaks, Matches, and Traps 145
Intermezzo: War and Memory 170
9 Creative Destruction: The Power of Technology 171
Intermezzo: Accident in Jamaica 193
10 Under an Evil Star 195
Intermezzo: Favela Life 215
11 Governments Can Kill Growth 217
Intermezzo: Florence and Veronica 240
12 Corruption and Growth 241
Intermezzo: Discrimination in Palanpur 253
13 Polarized Peoples 255
Intermezzo: Violent for Centuries 282
14 Conclusion: The View from Lahore 285
Notes 293
References and Further Reading 313
Index 335
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2002

    Quest for future growth in Africa

    William Easterly's book The Elusive Quest for Growth points out that in the past African countries have borrowed heavily because they were willing to mortgage the welfare of future generations to finance their generation's (mainly the government clientele's) standard of living. In addition to incurring high debt, irresponsible governments sold off the national assets (oil, diamonds, etc) in order to live well while their people remained mired in poverty. African governments have often chosen destructive policies because they act in the interest of a particular class or ethnic group and not in the interest of the nation. Easterly demonstrates that neither aid nor investment nor debt forgiveness has proven to be the answer to developing African countries that have bad governments. He emphasizes that only African governments displaying a fundamental shift in behavior should receive aid or be eligible for debt relief. Easterly believes that a favorable climate for new generations of business people and entrepreneurs which encourages them to invest in knowledge, machinery, technology and skills is essential for Africa's future growth and development. Things like high inflation, black markets, corruption, high interest rates, high budget deficits, restrictions on free trade, and poor public services create poor incentives for growth. He proposes that a just rule of law, democracy, independent central banks, independent finance ministers, and other good quality institutions are needed to stop the endless cycle of bad policies that perpetuate poor growth in Africa. Easterly would agree that for Africa to have a bright future Africa must be a democratic continent with institutions that protect the rights and interests of minority groups, and that protect the right of private property and individual economic freedom. Governments must be faced with the right incentives to create private sector growth. Easterly envisions an Africa in which governments do not devote themselves to theft, but in which governments provide a national infrastructure -- health clinics, primary schools, and well-maintained roads -- and assistance to the poor within each society. He encourages the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other donors to only support aid to African governments that can present credible intentions to build a national infrastructure, to give aid where it will help the poor the most. Maybe then the quest for future growth in Africa will succeed more than it has for the last fifty years. Easterly suggests that poor countries can leap right to the technological frontier by imitating technologies from industrialized nations. He recommends that African governments and world organizations encourage this transfer of technologies from industrial nations to developing nations. Easterly points out that electric power, a phone line, and a computer translate to a vast store of knowledge on the Internet. He believes the decentralized nature of the electronics revolution could be very good for Africa.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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