so much ill and so little good

Preparing for my class I am teaching at George Mason University this fall, I am doing a lot of reading. Another good book I have just finished is The White Man’s Burden:Why the West’s Efforts the Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly. The book was named best book of the year by The Economist,  Financial Times and the Washington Post.

The White Man’s Burden is the sequel to Easterly’s first book, The Elusive Quest For Growth. Recognized as one of the world’s best know development economists, Easterly offers both a brilliant and a biting diagnosis of the West’s interventions on behalf of the poor in The White Man’s Burden. He makes an excellent argument that our focus needs to be focused on small, measurable interventions that encourage self dependance and personal growth rather than  multimillion dollar macro-projects with a continuous history of failure.

Remember, aid cannot achieve the end of poverty. Only homegrown development based on the dynamism of individuals and firms in free markets can do that.  Shorn of the impossible task of general economic development, aid can achieve much more than it is achieving now to relieve the sufferings of the poor.

Put the focus back where it belongs: get the poorest people in the world such obvious goods as the vaccines, the antibiotics, the food supplements, the improved seeds, the fertilizer, the roads, the boreholes, the water pipes, the textbooks, and the nurses. This is not making the poor dependent on handouts; it is giving the poorest people the health, nutrition, education, and other inputs that raise the payoff to their own efforts to better their lives.

Easterly’s expertise makes this a must-read for anyone involved in working with the poor and hungry, or interested in international development.