Thursday, May 22, 2014

Economists, Politics, and Global Poverty (Part III)
A review of books that are important critiques of economists.

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

-- by William Easterly

“Easterly shows that many of the contemporary debates about the nature of development have their roots in history and he argues that the rights of the individual and democratic values should not be trampled on by those seeking faster economic growth.”

-- Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Winner

“Bill Easterly is simply the most interesting and provocative economist writing on development topics today.”

-- Francis Fukuyama

“Over the last century, global poverty has largely be 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 political oppression that created the problems in the first place,”

-- from the book cover

“Easterly argues that only a model of development predicated on the respect for the individual rights of poor people will be capable of ending global poverty.”

-- from the book cover

This book is recommended first for its history of economic development dating back to twelfth-century Italy. Easterly then traces the fight against global poverty by “experts” in development who often sided with dictators against their against their subjects. This includes US foreign policy makers dating back to pre-WWII China who have sided with autocrats in a technological approach to development. Easterly then argues that the stereotypes of wise technocrats from the West and helpless victims from the Rest, has to end. Real progress he contends “will only be achieved when the current ideology of development is rejected in favor of policies founded on the idea that all men are truly created equal.”

Easterly is particularly critical of the World Bank Bank charter set up by the the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, which contains the “nonpolitical cause.” The bank and its officers “shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; nor shall they be influenced in its decisions by the political character of the government of the member or members concerned. Only economic considerations shall be relevant to their decisions,” Easterly concludes that, “The only time the noninterference cause is binding, apparently, is in preventing the Bank from recognizing any democratic rights of any poor individuals in any of their members countries.” He states that “Having experts in charge of solving society’s problems turns thing over to agents who face neither a market test nor a democratic test …. they suffer neither economic or political penalties.”

Easterly argues that, “it is time at last for the silence on unequal rights for the rich and the poor to end. It is time at last for all men and women to be equally free.”