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The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good [Paperback]

William Easterly
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Sep 2007
We are all aware of the extreme hunger and poverty that afflict the world's poor. We hear the facts, see the images on television, buy the T-shirt and are moved as individuals and governments to dig deep into our pockets. Yet what happens to all this aid? Why after 50 years and $2.3 trillion are there still children dying for lack of twelve cents medicine? Why are there so many people still living on less than $1 a day without clean water, food, sanitation, shelter, education or medicine?

In The White Man's Burden William Easterly, acclaimed author and former economist at the World Bank, addresses these twin tragedies head on. While recognising the energy and compassion behind the campaign to make poverty history he argues urgently and powerfully that grand plans and good intentions are a part of the problem not the solution. Giving aid is not enough, we must ensure that it reaches the people who need it most and the only way to make this happens is through accountability and by learning from past experiences.

Without claiming to have all the answers, William Easterly chastises the complacent and patronising attitude of the West that attempts to impose solutions from above. In this book, which is by turns angry, moving, irreverent but always rigorous, he calls on each and everyone of us to take responsibility, whether donors, aid workers or ordinary citizens, so that more aid reaches the people it is supposed to help, the mother who cannot feed her children, the little girl who has to collect firewood rather than go to school, the father who cannot work because he has been crippled by war.

Frequently Bought Together

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good + The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It + Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa
Price For All Three: 20.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (27 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199226113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199226115
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Compelling reading...Easterly's book is an important one, and the arguments he raises cannot and should not be ignored. (London Book Review.com)

About the Author

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 The Elusive Quest for Growth and has worked in many areas of the developing world, most extensively in Africa, Latin America, and Russia.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 108 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How come $2.3 trillion dollars of Western aid has been spent in the last 50 years in Africa, my native continent, yet many African children still die of preventible diseases like dysentery, cholera and malaria? Why has Western good intentions not lifted Africa out of back-breaking poverty? Dr. William Easterly's argument in this fascinating book is that Western aid has failed because of the traditional approach to tackling Third World poverty: planning and bureaucracy. According to Easterly, Western aid by the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the IMF) is the most recent reincarnation of the White Man's Burden, a concept immortalised by Kipling. The premise of the White Man's Burden in the 19th century was that Western Europe spread Christianity, commerce and civilisation to the coloured, benighted races of the world (of course, for the benefit of the coloured races).

Mr Easterly, a former World Bank Economist, argues that the command-and-control bureaucrats of the aid establishment, whom he dubs 'Planners', cannot kickstart economic growth in the Third World because: (1) Planners are not accountable to the Third World poor since the poor do not vote in First World elections; (2) Planners' thinking is dominated by grandiose, non-specific plans such as the Millennium Development Goals; and (3) Planners think that they already have the answers. Hence, they tend to be patronising with ready-made answer for every poor country (e.g. structural adjustment, free markets and privatisation etc).

The author contrasts Planners with Searchers, whom he defines as people who work on the ground, constantly trying out new ideas for poverty alleviation.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent critique of foreign aid policies 18 May 2007
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
At the World Economic Forum in 2007, author William Easterly gave the audience some distressing news: The $2.3 trillion in aid sent to Africa since the 1950s had done nothing to increase Africa's GDP. It had been largely a waste of money. Bill Gates, who was sitting next to Easterly that day, admonished the author for focusing on narrowly economic benchmarks: "You don't eat GDP," Gates said petulantly. Easterly's riposte came a few days later in The Wall Street Journal, where he chided the world's richest college dropout for missing "the economics class that listed the components of GDP, such as food." Readers who enjoy such debates will love this acerbic, clearheaded book. Easterly, a former World Bank economist who is fervently committed to global prosperity, demolishes the myths that prop up ineffective efforts to help developing nations. He points his wrecking-ball at photo-op celebrities and utopian economists who feel that big plans and big aid budgets will eventually build big economies (the last 50 years of contrary evidence notwithstanding). Ah, you say, at least they are trying to do something good, while many others simply watch the impoverished world's agony in dismay. Instead, the author argues, only alternative, pinpointed aid tactics can succeed, but only if they use local knowledge and implementation. We recommend this to anyone interested in economic development and emerging markets, and to lovers of intelligent polemic on issues that matter.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By Joanne
I bought this book fully expecting to disagree with almost everything the author said, but feeling that to have an open mind I should read it.

The title I found hugely embarrasing especially as I spend most of my time reading in public places where large proportions of the people are not white.

Easterly despite having spent a good time of his career earning money from the World Bank actually spends most of the time explaining how foreign aid policy has failed to work over the last 50 years largely due to the desire to have a 'Big Plan' and the arrogance of foreigners (from predominantly white nations) in their interventions in the rest of the world.

I actually found myself agreeing with more of this book than I thought I would and certainly most of it was easy but interesting to read. I think some of the explanations and criticisms were too clear cut but I could see that often trying to comply with a Big Plan does indeed distract from the more important task of finding ways to improve lives.

Two things about the book really annoyed me. One was the constant reference to Planners v Searchers which was much along the lines of here come the 'baddies' in the black clothes called 'Planners' and against them are the good, little people trying to bring light in their white clothes 'Searchers'.

Secondly was the use of statistics. I think if you have a good grasp of statistical analysis then you would be disappointed with the frequent lack of referencing of the data or only referencing secondary sources. If you are not statistically biased then trying to read and re-read the descriptions of the analysis - 'adjusting for reverse causality' is difficult because you are left unconvinced as to whether the conclusions presented have a strong basis.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars impressive! 22 May 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
finally a book on the subject worth reading....yes, it goes over some ground already covered by others...but it does offer new insight...i was skeptical reading this as an African...but in the end I found myself fully persuaded by his arguments....what an impressive book by Easterly!...this is by far the best book I have read on the subject...Easterly provides a unique blend of economic insight, personal experience and local knowledge of the issues...if it was possible, I would make every politician, activist and anyone who cares about aiding read this book BEFORE they act....its a pity that may be this book has come too late...go read it...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Planners Vs. Searchers
Easterly sets out to prove that searchers are better than planners in his 2006 book. Throughout the book he explores what are the best efforts to enhance the lifestyles of less... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ms. Jr Inwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating
Found the first section on planners vs searchers fascinating. Completely changed how I view foreign aid. Excellent read. . .
Published 17 months ago by syrphur
5.0 out of 5 stars Aid projects as neo-colonialism?
I've come to this rather late, as in this game the 6 years since publication has changed the story to some extent, but the basic message is still entirely valid. Read more
Published 20 months ago by G. Duigu
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth the media doesn't want to see, wonderful read!
First of all I'd like to point out that I haven't read the whole book yet.

However, as an Economics student in Spain with some cultural background on Africa (because my... Read more
Published on 1 May 2012 by C. A. Gonzalez Villalobos
5.0 out of 5 stars A clarion call for proper delivery of Aid
I thoroughly recommend this book. It's not anti-foreign aid, but it asks sensible and probing questions about how Aid is funded and organised, how it is actually used on the... Read more
Published on 9 July 2011 by Krappyrubsnif
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly critical
Easterly's book is about the efficiency of development aid. In the beginning of his book, he proposes the existence of two tragedies: the tragedy that one billion people are living... Read more
Published on 5 July 2011 by Alexander Sokol
1.0 out of 5 stars frustrating...
This book made me think that after so many years, the white man is still not able to give up his "burden". Very predictable and heavily loaded with a liberal connotations.
Published on 28 Jan 2010 by ays
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
this book gives a brilliant, and different insight into the world of development in an informal and interesting way.
Published on 6 Jan 2010 by Ms. E. Stiles
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenges what you believe
Easterly does a good job challenging contemporary opinion on how to solve poverty around the book. While the book's title is slightly embarrassing, in a way, it explains the two... Read more
Published on 29 May 2009 by Emeka O
5.0 out of 5 stars The White Man's Burden by Wm Easterley
A refreshingly frank easy to read book written from decades of "inside" knowledge and experience which should be a bible for anyone involved or interested in releasing Africa's... Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2009 by Mr. David G. Stables
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