The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good

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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by William Easterly
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Brilliant at diagnosing the failings of Western intervention in the Third World. (BusinessWeek)
Most readers are familiar with the grim litany of global poverty: Each day, 30,000 children die of starvation; 3 billion people, half the world's population, live on less than $2 a day; 2 billion people lack access to sanitation…. Former World Bank research economist William Easterly argues that a second tragedy attends this grave situation: Over $2.3 trillion in aid from the West has done shockingly little to alleviate the twin blights of famine and poverty in the Third World. In this blistering indictment, Easterly explains why the best-laid plans of funders fail in real-world situations.
David Ignatius
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.
— The Washington Post
Virgina Postrel
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
Publishers Weekly
No one who attacks the humanitarian aid establishment is going to win any popularity contests, but, neither, it seems, is that establishment winning any contests with the people it is supposed to be helping. Easterly, an NYU economics professor and a former research economist at the World Bank, brazenly contends that the West has failed, and continues to fail, to enact its ill-formed, utopian aid plans because, like the colonialists of old, it assumes it knows what is best for everyone. Existing aid strategies, Easterly argues, provide neither accountability nor feedback. Without accountability for failures, he says, broken economic systems are never fixed. And without feedback from the poor who need the aid, no one in charge really understands exactly what trouble spots need fixing. True victories against poverty, he demonstrates, are most often achieved through indigenous, ground-level planning. Except in its early chapters, where Easterly builds his strategic platform atop a tower of statistical analyses, the book's wry, cynical prose is highly accessible. Readers will come away with a clear sense of how orthodox methods of poverty reduction do not help, and can sometimes worsen, poor economies. (Mar. 20) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Be thine own palace, wrote John Donne, "or the world's thy jail." William Easterly does notinvoke this particular metaphor in The White Man's Burden, but this exciting — and excited — book is about the imprisonment of the world's poor in the trap of international aid, where "planners" have incarcerated the wretched of the earth. The poor may not have a "palace" to fall back on, battered as they are by grinding privation, massive illiteracy, and the scourge of epidemics. But Easterly — a former World Bank economist who now teaches at New York University — nevertheless argues that in the fight against global poverty, "the right plan is to have no plan."

In contrast to the typically well-meaning but allegedly always injurious "planners," the heroes of Easterly's book are those whom he calls "searchers." The division between the planners and the searchers, as seen by Easterly, could not be sharper: "In foreign aid, Planners announce good intentions but don't motivate anyone to carry them out; Searchers find things that work and get some reward. Planners raise expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them; Searchers accept responsibility for their actions. Planners determine what to supply; Searchers find out what is in demand. Planners apply global blueprints; Searchers adapt to local conditions. Planners at the top lack knowledge of the bottom; Searchers find out what the reality is at the bottom. Planners never hear whether the planned got what it needed; Searchers find out whether the customer is satisfied." The radical oversimplification in this overdrawn contrast leads Easterly to a simple summary of his book's thesis in its subtitle — Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good — which supplements a title borrowed from Rudyard Kipling's lyrical paean to high-minded imperialism.

Library Journal
According to this former World Bank research economist, the $2.3 trillion in aid that the West has poured into the Third World over 50 years hasn't helped because the approach is all wrong. The recipients have a better idea of what is needed than the planners. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A contrarian argument that humanitarian assistance seldom produces the desired results-and may even further poverty and hunger. Former World Bank economist Easterly has perhaps chosen an unfortunate title for his latest book, but there's a point to it. "Here's a secret," he writes: "anytime you hear a Western politician or activist say ‘we,' they mean ‘we whites'-today's version of the White Man's Burden." The humanitarian aid that moves from the First World to what Easterly calls the Rest almost always goes to the wrong places, a tragedy all its own given the magnitude of the macro-problem-namely, as he notes, that nearly three billion people live on less than two dollars a day each. Given this, top-down solutions that assume that only free markets can generate wealth are illusory, though that wishful thinking is understandable. More useful, Easterly writes, are top-down incentives to nurture good governments and isolate bad ones (although, as he notes, "aid shifts money from being spent by the best governments in the world to being spent by the worst"), while encouraging aid clients to develop social norms against crime, corruption and predation, and for property rights. More useful still are bottom-up solutions of various kinds; one of the most interesting that Easterly proposes is simply that "development vouchers" be given to the extremely poor, who may then redeem these at aid agencies in exchange for vaccinations, feed, drugs, medical attention, tools, seeds, food or whatever they might find most useful at the moment. In other words, imagine, Easterly proposes, giving the needy a voice in addressing their needs. Easterly's is not the only recent portrayal of humanitarianism incrisis (see David Rieff's A Bed for the Night, 2002), but it is unusual in suggesting solutions as well.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143038825
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/27/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
260,382
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet 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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