Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Aiming at a popular rather than an academic audience, Easterly (New York Univ.) argues that the poor record of foreign aid could be improved by narrowing its objectives and radically changing its organization. Easterly derides the current approach of government-to-government funding via national and international bureaucracies, and advocates a shift from "Planners" who promote comprehensive development strategies to "Searchers" who experiment to find small, incremental improvements. As in his previous book (The Elusive Quest for Growth, CH, Nov'01, 39-1676), Easterly provides a knowledgeable, interesting, and readable summary of the recent academic literature. However, perhaps to appeal to a wider audience, most of the text is a less rigorous highlighting of supportive data. Some readers might find he gives insufficient attention to other evidence and important historical patterns. For example, Easterly presents data since 1980 to portray South Korea as a case of high growth without aid when, in fact, there were sizable aid flows prior to 1980. Nonetheless, many of the proposals have considerable merit (rigorous evaluation of aid interventions, making aid agencies individually accountable for outcomes), and the book is interesting reading. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. C. Kilby Vassar College
As the dictator of Haiti for decades, Papa Doc Duvalier had good reasons--tens of millions of them--to praise international aid agencies for their generosity. As a former analyst in the World Bank system that coordinates such generosity, Easterly thinks it is time to start listening to people other than corrupt dictators and self-congratulatory bureaucrats in assessing international-aid projects. Though he acknowledges that such projects have succeeded in some tasks--reducing infant mortality, for example--Easterly adduces sobering evidence that Western nations have accomplished depressingly little with the trillions they have spent on foreign aid. That evidence suggests that in some countries--including Haiti, Zaire, and Angola--foreign aid has actually intensified the suffering of the poor. By examining the tortured history of several aid initiatives, he shows how blind and arrogant Western aid officers have imposed on helpless clients a postmodern neocolonialism of political manipulation and economic dependency, stifling democracy and local enterprise in the process. Easterly forcefully argues that an ambitious new round of Western aid programs will help the suffering poor only if those who manage them wake up from the ideological fantasy of global omniscience and begin the difficult search for piecemeal local approaches, rigorously monitoring the results of every project. Proffering no blueprint for bringing poverty and disease to an end, Easterly does set the terms for a debate over how to give foreign aid a new start. --Bryce Christensen Copyright 2006 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
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 in crisis (see David Rieff's A Bed for the Night, 2002), but it is unusual in suggesting solutions as well. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Author notes provided by Syndetics
William Easterly is 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 in The New York Times, The Independent, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Forbes, and Foreign Policy, among others. He is author of the acclaimed book TheElusive Quest for Growth and has worked in many areas of the developing world, most extensively in Africa, Latin America, and Russia.