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The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor
 
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The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor [Format Kindle]

William Easterly

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Over the last century, global poverty has largely been viewed as a technical problem that merely requires the right “expert” solutions. Yet all too often, experts recommend solutions that fix immediate problems without addressing the systemic political factors that created them in the first place. Further, they produce an accidental collusion with “benevolent autocrats,” leaving dictators with yet more power to violate the rights of the poor.

In The Tyranny of Experts, economist William Easterly, bestselling author of The White Man’s Burden, traces the history of the fight against global poverty, showing not only how these tactics have trampled the individual freedom of the world’s poor, but how in doing so have suppressed a vital debate about an alternative approach to solving poverty: freedom. Presenting a wealth of cutting-edge economic research, Easterly argues that only a new model of development—one predicated on respect for the individual rights of people in developing countries, that understands that unchecked state power is the problem and not the solution —will be capable of ending global poverty once and for all.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  28 commentaires
84 internautes sur 90 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Nobody asked them if they would rather get respect and no aid rather than aid and no respect. 4 avril 2014
Par N N Taleb - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The point that top-down development methods are great on paper but have not produced benefits ("so far") is a point Easterly has made before, heavily influencing yours truly in the formation his own argument against naive interventionism and the collection of "humanitarians" fulfilling their personal growth and shielding themselves from their conscience... This is more powerful: the West has been putting development ahead of moral issues, patronizingly setting aside the right of the people to decide their own fate, including whether they want these "improvements", hence compounding failure and turning much of development into an agenda that benefits the careers (and angst) of "humanitarians", imperial policies, and, not least, local autocrats *without* any moral contribution. Talking about a sucker problem.
***
To put it in an aphorism, they didn't ask the people if they would rather get respect and no aid rather than aid and no respect.
48 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Bill Gates, please read this book! 8 mars 2014
Par Hal Jordan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
William Easterly, an economics professor at NYU, has written several iconoclastic books on economic development. His latest book is his best, in my view. The book provides a history of development policy from the early twentieth century onward. Easterly analyzes how what he labels "authoritarian development policy" -- state-run, top-down policy -- came to dominate the field of development so thoroughly.

Easterly sees the consequences of this dominance as being tragic, with governments and their hired experts having run roughshod over the interests of poor people. His book provides many examples of callous remarks by development officials dismissing the hardships their policies have imposed on people whose lives were plenty hard enough to begin with. Easterly is skeptical of the technocratic, data-driven policies that Bill Gates has been associated with in recent years, doubting the reliability of both the data these policies are based on and the rosy assessments of the outcomes of the policies.

Easterly worked for years at the World Bank and had a ringside seat at the formulation and implementation of the Bank's polices, most of which he now sees as ineffective and, often, counterproductive. He certainly has the credentials to make these arguments; it will be interesting to see what counterarguments the development policy establishment makes. I would hate to think that Easterly's arguments will be ignored, but he notes that similar arguments in the past have been.

Much as I like the book, I do have a few caveats. I like the fact that the book is fairly brief and very readable -- I probably wouldn't have read it if it hadn't been! -- but the scholarship seemed a trifle thin to me. Particularly the first few chapters, which deal with the origins of development policy as found in British policy during the later stage of the empire, policy in Nationalist China, and U.S. policy in Latin America, seem to rely heavily on a few secondary sources. Even then, I'm not sure how thoroughly he has read some of these sources. For instance, in discussing Harry Dexter White's views at the Bretton Woods conference, he relies on Steil's recent book on Bretton Woods. But Steil makes rather a big deal of White's having turned out to be a Soviet agent, a fact that Easterly doesn't mention, although it would appear to provide additional insight into why White supported authoritarian policies.

Easterly also indulges in a little too much "roadmapping" of the "as we saw in the last chapter" and "having discussed x, we will now discuss y" and "once we finish discussing y, we will discuss z in the following two chapters." Kind of reminded me of an undergraduate term paper.

These are quibbles, though. Easterly has written an important book. One that I hope Bill Gates and the rest of the development policy establishment feel obliged to come to grips with.
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Why development takes place (or doesn't) 3 avril 2014
Par Mal Warwick - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This book is full of surprises.

In The Tyranny of Experts, the author of the seminal book The White Man’s Burden drills down into the history of economic development around the world in search of its causes. What he finds has little to do with any of the factors bandied about among contemporary development professionals.

“The conventional approach to economic development, to making poor countries rich,” William Easterly writes, “is based on a technocratic illusion: the belief that poverty is a purely technical problem amenable to such technical solutions as fertilizers, antibiotics, or nutritional supplements . . . The technocratic approach ignores what this book will establish as the real cause of poverty — the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights.”

Instead, Easterly maintains, the fundamental pre-condition for successful development is democracy paired with deep understanding of local history. He calls the establishment of the World Bank “the moment of original sin . . . in which the Bank disavowed the ideals of freedom . . .”

Academia has been good to William Easterly. Presumably, when he was forced out of the World Bank because of his outspoken criticism of the Bank’s support for corrupt regimes and pro-Western favoritism, he was looking for a platform on which he could continue his campaign to shift the consensus among development professionals from top-down “solutions” to support for bottom-up, grassroots initiatives. He’s gotten that platform, but his position on the faculty of New York University has also moved him to dig more deeply into the intellectual roots of his thinking. The Tyranny of Experts is one result.

This book is intellectually very ambitious. Easterly finds the common denominator for successful development not in policies, procedures, or leaders but in an environment in which the rights of poor people are respected. On the most fundamental level, he insists, the biggest success stories in development are to be found in what we’ve grown used to calling “the West.” In these rich countries, democratic government accountable to voters left them essentially free to exercise their genius for innovation. Variations on the capitalist system provided the incentives for individual initiative and hard work, the result of which has been a meteoric increase in per capita income during the past two centuries in the West, compared with a slow increase for the Rest. Yet development professionals ignore the stunning, long-range success of the West and turn instead to models based on short-term (and usually temporary) growth spurts.

In recent decades, it has been fashionable to point to China as proof that development is best facilitated by “benevolent tyrants.” Easterly finds this argument unconvincing for at least three reasons:

(1) The major boost to Chinese productivity, and hence the biggest factor in increasing the country’s per capita income, was the grassroots movement among farmers freed from collective farms to till their own land. This development began taking hold in 1978, at the same time as Deng Xiao Peng’s accession to power, but had as much to do with the Chinese breakthrough as Deng’s actions as Secretary of the Communist Party. In fact, it was only in 1982 that the Party made official the dispersion of landholding that was already widespread throughout the country.

(2) Easterly proves that the only factor that correlates closely with sustained, high-octane development is regionalism. China, after all, lies in East Asia, home of what Easterly calls the “Gang of Four” breakthrough economies (otherwise known as the “Asian Tigers”): Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Statistical analysis proves that’s no accident.

(3) The anonymous spread of the potato “increased the calories, vitamins, and nutrients produced by a given amount of land, thus sustaining a larger population” and offers “more evidence for attributing the rise of China as an economic superpower” than any conscious policy of the Party, much less of Premier Deng. I found this claim so puzzling that I checked out Easterly’s facts: lo and behold, the American Journal of Potato Research reported more than a decade ago that “China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.” (Who knew? I can’t recall ever seeing potatoes in a Chinese meal!)

One of the most valuable aspects of this book is Easterly’s habit of finding revealing truths in areas others never consider. The importance of the potato to China is just one example. Another is his conclusion that “one of the regional factors that held back African development was that Africa had too many nations.” (It’s obvious — once you read the book.)

The Tyranny of Experts is a brilliant inquiry into economic history, with excursions into political science, sociology, and other disciplines. By making a solid case for individual initiative as the driving force in development rather than the policies of leaders, William Easterly has made a major contribution to the field. However, there in one major area in which I take issue with the author.

Economist that he is, Professor Easterly uses per capita income as the exclusive measure of development. This choice is problematic both because it’s a poor reflection of the well-being of poor people (who are, after all, the principal concern of the field) and because it presumes that economic growth — the output of more and more stuff — is necessarily good. If I earn $700 per year (about $2 per day) and Bill Gates earns $2 billion, it’s small comfort to me that our “per capital income” is $1,000,000,350. And if Mr. Gates consumes enough water and electricity to maintain his 66,000-square foot house that could otherwise meet the needs of . . . well, lots of people, that’s far from good for the planet — or for you or me. (Not so incidentally, Easterly calls out Bill Gates for special criticism for his exaggerated faith in quantifying change.)

Incidentally, I also note that in two references in his book to those who comprise “development professionals” Easterly includes only staff of the World Bank, the United Nations, and the overseas aid agencies of national governments. He excludes NGOs, many of which employ large numbers of professionals working in development programs throughout the Global South. I find this peculiar.

There is so much more that’s worthy of comment in this outstanding book that I can’t possibly do justice to it in this short review. All I can say is, if you’re involved in any way in economic development work, or simply concerned about ending poverty, The Tyranny of Experts is essential reading. Despite its flaws, it’s simply brilliant.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good, but perhaps not as groundbreaking as it is made out to be. 17 avril 2014
Par D.K. Thompson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The Tyranny of Experts is a good read, and I recommend it to anyone interested in economic development and political change (specifically democratization). Although at times his prose comes across as overly pedagogical, Easterly's writing is entertaining as he pulls together various development histories ranging widely across time - from Northern Italy's free cities in 1154 A.D. to the British Empire in the early 20th Century to Uganda in 2010. The central argument is that the development community that has engaged the "developing world" since the end of World War II (specifically from Truman's initiation of post-war foreign aid in 1949) has focused on economic growth to the exclusion of political rights for the people in countries that are being developed. According to Easterly, development experts have made three critical mistakes: (1) development programs have treated countries/cultures as if they are "blank slates," ignoring specific historical circumstances and dynamics; (2) policies and measurement of "development" have focused on the national level, whereas development may be at the same time more localized (progress taking place within specific communities) as well as more regional (the broader economic/environmental/social setting of development clearly has a strong regional component) than this analysis acknowledges; and (3) development experts have chosen to consciously design solutions to problems, whereas historically a free market has been the best problem-solver.

To make his point, Easterly examines a broad range of statistics, anecdotes, documents and quotes from development experts and organizations. Criticizing the supposedly apolitical approach of organizations like the World Bank, he shows how development institutions have undermined individual rights. In this he is certainly not alone - much of the book reminded me of a kind of cross between Michael Goldman's "Imperial Nature" and any of Paul Farmer's books about individual rights and development (perhaps "Pathologies of Power" would be a decent comparison). A significant contribution Easterly makes to this body of development literature is that he includes a brief and selective analysis of how cultural values, individual rights, and economic growth go hand in hand. Drawing on academic studies, he shows how democracy and cultural freedom work in a virtuous feedback loop; where oppression has taken place, social trust tends to be very low, which hinders the development of democracy and individual rights. This is a significant insight, although clearly made previously by the studies that Easterly cites.

Surprisingly, while Easterly examines the British Empire and American international engagement from the standpoint of political rights, tracing the strand of imperial-minded racism that tainted the origins of the development community, he attributes economic growth in Britain and America almost solely to political freedom (more by declining to mention empire and territorial expansion outside of the political context than by making this argument explicitly). Yes, there is a statistical link, as he recognizes, between the existence of checks on authoritarian power in Western European countries at the beginning of Atlantic trade and their benefit from that trade (p. 137-139). Furthermore, individual incentives play an important role in invention and technological development as well as trade and weathering economic shifts. Yet I feel that this book comes up short by being somewhat selective in the histories that it tells as well as glossing over the exploitation permitted (some would say created) by markets. We can agree that individual rights are essential and valuable as ends in themselves. While criticizing the development community for overlooking history, Easterly holds up the countries with individual rights for their citizens as examples for other societies/political entities to follow yet gives short shrift to the history of economic development in these countries themselves. America grew to its current status as a world economic leader because of individual rights, but also because of the expropriation of land in North America, the development (alongside individual rights) of an expansionist attitude in culture, and financial power that extracts value from beyond its own borders. Individual rights in Britain at the beginning of Atlantic trade may have helped the island nation gain technological advantages and dominate sea trade, but raw materials from the empire and the exploitation of workers in Manchester factories also played a large role in getting Britain to where it is today. Easterly's selectivity suggests that there is a lot of work to be done in bringing a broader history of development to light.

To a large extent, development has become a business that is about sustaining itself, whereas it should be about ultimately eliminating the need for a development community. In advancing this viewpoint, Easterly is doing a service to many. Having worked in both local and international development organizations, I will say that despite my reservations, Easterly achieves his goal of contributing to the development debate in a way that opens the floor for future conversation and research.

The bottom line: While it may not be completely groundbreaking, I do think Easterly's latest book does a good job synthesizing information on the recent history of development and pulling together various strands of theory (economic, political, and cultural) into the development debate. It is a worthwhile read.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Easterly's Masterpiece (so far) 29 mars 2014
Par Charles W. Calomiris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I read the Tyranny of Experts in two sittings. The book masterfully combines evidence from many economic studies, historical facts, and moral philosophy, and it does so within a brilliant organizational framework that shows how the systematic abuse of the rights of individuals in developing countries has resulted from the self-serving justifications by developed countries since colonial times. The author is meticulously cautious in his treatment of evidence; he never overreaches, but rather is content to open a conversation about human rights in the developing world that others are all too content to foreclose. I have very much enjoyed all of Bill Easterly's prior books, but the quality of writing and thinking in this book outpaces them all. It is simply a must-read.

Charles W. Calomiris
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