THE TYRANNY OF EXPERTS by William Easterly


Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor
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Easterly (Economics/New York Univ.; The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, 2006, etc.) delivers a scathing assault on the anti-poverty programs associated with both the United Nations and its political and private sector supporters.

No stranger to controversy, the author takes off the gloves again in a no-holds-barred account of the history and hypocrisy of the ideas associated with development economics. He charges that to the extent anti-poverty programs intended for the developing sector rely on outside economic and technical expertise and top-down government action, they become authoritarian, anti-democratic and unlikely to succeed. Easterly derides the recent acclaimed success of the Millennium Development campaign in Ethiopia in reducing infant mortality, which has been praised by many. The author shows that the results are difficult to substantiate given the lack of coherent data, and they are undermined by the government’s use of aid funds for its own political purposes. He contends that the Ethiopian case reflects a longer history in which the World Bank acts in a political manner, despite the prohibition in its charter, and he explores how the World Bank programs ignored the brutality in Colombia during la violencia of the 1950s. For Easterly, the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 marked the beginning of modern development economics, and he shows how “development ideas took shape…at a time when…attitudes…were still racist.” He provides a broader historical perspective on especially African countries, demonstrating how the history of slavery still influences current politics. The author offers the alternative of fostering greater human rights and increasing political freedom.

A sharply written polemic intended to stir up debate about the aims of global anti-poverty campaigns.

Pub Date: March 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-465-03125-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2014


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