The Empire of Blasted Dreams

First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, November 2006 | Go to article overview

The Empire of Blasted Dreams


Every once in a while, we receive an exceedingly rude reminder why economics is called the dismal science. One reason being, of course, that it fancies itself a science. Raising embarrassing questions at a party celebrating the widely professed concern for the poor of the world is economist William Easterly in The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much III and So Little Good (Penguin). Four hundred pages of statistics, charts, graphs, and depressing history, all sprinkled with mostly grim anecdotes, elaborate on the subtitle.

There is no doubt that Easterly cares about the poor, who are mainly in the global South. He has spent decades of his life working with the major development organizations and is now professor of economics at New York University and a senior fellow of the Center for Global Development. He previously wrote The Elusive Quest for Growth, which has become a standard reference in development circles. He cares, but he is convinced that most of the money spent on foreign aid (in the trillions in the past half century) has done very little good and a great deal of damage. He is utterly scornful of the Utopian proposals to end world poverty that issue with wearied regularity from politicians, rock stars, and international bureaucracies.

Whether the source be Tony Blair, or Bono, or the World Bank, the massive failures of the past are regularly dusted off and, without even changing the language, presented as new, visionary, and requiring only tens of billions in additional funding to end poverty at last. Easterly's tone is more regretful and even whimsical dian angry, although the anger breaks through from time to time. The White Man's Burden, in which the West is going to solve the problems of the Rest, has produced a huge world of interlocking and frequendy self-serving bureaucracies diat have only a tenuous relationship to helping poor people.

There is the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations Development Program, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Conference and Trade and Development, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and, of course, the World Trade Organization. Then follow a host of subsidiary bureaucracies, including those of individual rich countries and the European Union.

Easterly tells a grim story of the selling of delusions, of catastrophes, cover-ups, and corruption resulting in the bolstering of despotic regimes. The fair-minded reader who is concerned about the poor may well conclude that foreign aid, with all its pomps, pretensions, and ensconced apparatchiks, is a cruel shell game played at the expense of the poor and should be terminated.

That is apparendy not Mr. Easterly's intention, however. He is still very much in the development business. He offers proposals for reform. He writes at length on how current approaches favor "Planners" over "Searchers." Planners sit at desks and conference with one another endlessly in Washington and Brussels, working up grand schemes to be announced with much fanfare at international meetings of the rich before imposing the same old thing diey've been imposing for decades on poor countries, whether the schemes help the poor or not.

Searchers, by way of contrast, are attentive to what is happening on the ground, encouraging of local initiatives, and determined to hold programs accountable to the bottom line of whether the poor become less poor. Who could possibly disagree with the call for such accountability? The problem is that, by Easterly's own account, the usual grand designs cooked up by bureaucrats routinely rail against bureaucracy and demand level upon level of accountability. Every grand new global initiative that has been launched in the past decades has been described as a radical break from business as usual as it demands more billions for the funding of business as usual. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Empire of Blasted Dreams
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.