The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor

William Easterly, Author
William Easterly. Basic, $29.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-465-03125-2
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-465-08973-4
Ebook - 246 pages - 978-0-465-08090-8
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A well-known skeptic of foreign aid, NYU economist Easterly (The White Man’s Burden) examines efforts to produce and sustain growth in developing nations. Easterly deplores “authoritarian development” that fails to respect local knowledge and individual rights, and here assesses “benevolent autocrats” as well as “experts who aspire to technocratic power.” Using historical and contemporary examples, Easterly calls for the expanded rights of the global poor and a “time at last for all men and women to be equally free.” To illustrate the advantages of organic change and individual rights, Easterly analyzes gentrification of New York City’s SoHo district since the 1930s. What this case study has to do with Uganda, Ethiopia, or anywhere beyond Manhattan is unclear. Mechanistic top-down international planning has many critics, but Easterly’s alternatives are removed from reality. His line of thought seems to ignore the many legal, economic, geographic, and cultural forces that impede global development. This loose, sometimes incoherent collection of high-minded notes does not add up to a convincing thesis or argument. Easterly tries to craft global solutions, but fails to come up with practical proposals that will work in the messy world beyond his neighborhood. Charts, graphs, and photos. (Mar.)
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