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106 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and insightful account of the failure of aid in Africa
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...
Published on 11 May 2008 by A. O. P. Akemu

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5 of 43 people found the following review helpful
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


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106 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and insightful account of the failure of aid in Africa, 11 May 2008
By 
A. O. P. Akemu "Ona" (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
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).

THE BOOK'S ARGUMENTS IN BRIEF
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. He provides interesting accounts of aid projects, done by Searchers--Westerners, Africans, Indians--that were modest in scope but brought significant benefits to the poor. My favourite example was from India. By making a contribution of $5,000, Western donors built a toilet block for teenage girls in a rural school. This dramatically cut the drop-out rate for the girls because they (the girls) had been dropping out "in droves because of the embarrassment that they felt once they started menstruating and had no private facilities".

He shows that contrary to the goals of the Planners, Western-style market societies cannot be planned "top-down". Markets in the developed West are the result of complex social and political institutions that evolved over thousands of years. Since free market opportunities in the West and The Rest depend on "bottom-up choices" which the planners don't begin to understand, Planners are doomed to fail in creating markets in the Third World.

Though the subject of the book is a serious one, the tome is spiced with witty accounts of the histories of various Third World countries: Western support for UNITA in Angola, the Contras in Nicaragua and in Haiti. On page after page, Easterly provides grim evidence of the failure of the World Bank, the IMF and the Western political machinery to effect desired social change in the Third World. More often than not, Western good intentions led to much harm as in the above-mentioned countries. The message: Economic success in the Third World cannot be planned from an office in Washington DC. Instead, as has happened in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China and India, it must be homegrown. Certainly Western aid still has a role to play but the Planners in the World Bank and IMF would do well to be more humble in their ambitions; they should seek incremental, targeted improvements in people's lives.

SIMPLIFICATION, OBFUSCATION AND OUTRAGE
The book has at least three glaring limitations. First, Mr Easterly's analysis is often disingenuous. For instance, he shows that in (rich) Denmark, people trust their fellow countryfolk more than (poor) Filipinos do theirs. However, he erroneously concludes that wealth is a determinant of trust in a society. This sounds simplistic. Perhaps, causality is more complex. Could it be that Danes are more trustful of each other because theirs is a more ethnically homogeneous and egalitarian society than The Philippines? Could a history of extractive political and economic institutions in The Philippines be the cause of mistrust?

Second, Easterly asks the reader to be indignant because $2.3trillion of Western taxpayer wealth has been wasted on foreign aid in the last 50years. Two questions for Easterly: How much money is $2.3trillion? Well, not much. It breaks down to $46billion per year on average - a miniscule percentage of annual Western GDP in the last 50years. The argument becomes even more risible when you divide the adjust it per capita of recipient country. $46billion per year is a drop in the ocean.

How does $2.3trillion compare with the sums of money that the West extracted from Africa in the form of interest payments, bribes, shady deals with corrupt governments, private stash of dictators, and even recycled aid money? Mr. Easterly is taciturn on these issues. $2.3 trillion in Western aid over 50years is hardly enough reason for moral outrage; the failure of aid and hypocrisy of the aid system is.

Third, Easterly's distinction between Planners and Searchers is simplistic. It is hard to believe that every employee of the World Bank and IMF falls neatly into the "Planner" category. Surely, the truth is more complex. However, since the coarse distinction works well in contrasting the traditional approach to aid, I'll not fault the author for this.

Despite these limitations, Mr Easterly presents some ideas for making aid work: (1) Make aid agencies accountable for individual, feasible areas that help poor people improve their lives; (2) Give aid agencies the opportunity to experiment and search for what works; and (3) Abandon the Utopian blueprint to fix the Third World's complex problems. Instead focus on getting specific, incremental improvement in people's lives in fields such as health, sanitation and food security. Broad-brush plans for delivering market economies, 'Making Poverty History' or establishing the rule of law, laudable as they are, are doomed to fail.

CONCLUSION
Western (good?) intentions, grandiose planning, bureaucratic hubris and bleeding-heart campaigns do not end poverty. In the concluding chapter, the author makes a poignant point: "Aid won't make poverty history...only the self-reliant efforts of poor people and poor societies themselves can end poverty, borrowing ideas and institutions from the West when it suits them to do so." Easterly's is a call for humility as we try to tackle the problem of poverty in The Third World. It is also a message with which I concur and one that I, as a Nigerian, have taken to heart. I hope that Third World and Western policymakers are listening to Easterly. I recommend White Man's Burden for making such an important point.
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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 "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite truly embarrasing title this book should be read, 9 May 2007
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.

However even saying this I felt there were many interesting points to consider in this book, generally it was written in an easy style all be it a little too frivolous at times. For anyone interested in development, aid or foreign policy this is a MUST READ book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars impressive!, 22 May 2006
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenges what you believe, 29 May 2009
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
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 main themes of the book. Firstly, most of the current attempt to fix the poor world is underpinned by an assumption that the West has a moral burden to help. Secondly, and unfortunately, that attempt fails at the implementation stage because of bureaucracy, arrogance, 'planners vs searchers', and the in situ patronizing and condescending attitude of some Westerners.

Be warned though. It is slightly too long and the statistics can bore you out if all you want is a nice read. Also, by not proffering solutions, Easterly may occasionally appear pessimistic or nonchalant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly critical, 5 July 2011
By 
Alexander Sokol (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
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 in poverty, and the tragedy that the development aid of the west to a large degree have failed to efficiently alleviate the first tragedy.

The issue which Easterly concerns himself with is of obvious importance. His main explanation of the problems with development aid is that aid has mostly been funneled through large-scale planning (whose proponents he labels "Planners") in contrast to many smaller, more pragmatic solutions to single problems (whose proponents he labels "Searchers"). Basically, his distinction between these two groups is analogous to the distinction between planned economies and free-market economies.

Easterly gives many examples of how large-scale planning have failed, as well as some successes, and attempts to elucidate what determined the distinction. In the first part of the book, his arguments mostly relate to attempts at poverty reduction, while the latter part concerns itself more with the even higher-level planning efforts of imperialism and its post-war equivalents. In general, his arguments appear well-researched and convincing, although the first part of the books seem more well done than the latter. In the final chapters, he discusses alternative aid methodologies on a case-by-case basis, giving some very interesting examples of real-life successes.

Throughout the book, Easterly also gives smaller "case studies" of single individuals and families. These stories appear a bit out-of-place, and their emotionality detracts from the otherwise academic and objective tone. Also, Easterly increasingly throughout the book fills in small humoristic pop cultural references (at one point even comparing a despots relation to democracy with Paris Hiltons relation to chastity). These references also feels misplaced. Nonetheless, they are presumably included to make the book less dry and more accessible, and in this sense, they may make the book more palatable to a wider public, although the price is a slight impression of bias and hyperbole by the author.

In spite of these issues, the overarching theme of the book is immensely important to the aid debate, and on that ground the book is easily recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taking the poor seriously, 19 Dec 2008
By 
Jeremy Williams (Luton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
`The White Man's Burden: Why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good' poses two fairly simple questions. First of all, how have the rich countries managed to give away $2.3 trillion over the last decades and still see people dying of malnutrition and entirely curable diseases? And secondly, why can the free market deliver millions of copies of a new Harry Potter book to children around the world all on the same day, but can't deliver a life-saving vaccination programme?

His conclusion is that aid has failed, from a mixture of corruption, overambition, and incompetence. He then draws a distinction between `planners', and 'searchers'. Planners are the big thinkers, the `big push' schemes like the Millennnium Development Goals, or Make Poverty History. While the planners get the celebrity endorsements, the best solutions are the ones that are home-grown - small-scale, "effective piecemeal" approaches that start with the poor and work out their needs and how to meet them. These are the 'searchers', who are concerned with what works rather than big and noble ideals.

I didn't expect to agree or to like a book that is so critical of aid, but his critique is balanced with a very real compassion for the poor. Ultimately, he's on their side, and Easterly's belief in small-scale, bottom-up approaches is one that needs to be widely read by policy-makers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The White Man's Burden by Wm Easterley, 10 Feb 2009
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
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 undoubted potential
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clarion call for proper delivery of Aid, 9 July 2011
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 ground, and asks why so much of it fails to reach the poor in the developing world.

It's a clarion call for Aid to be delivered on a human level by people whose job is to find effective solutions ('Searchers') rather than by Western planners imposing grand, unrealistic solutions or seeking a Utopian ideal ('Planners'). I loved the humour, sensitivity and insight devoted to a clear explanation of a subject that can all too often be thorny and earnest - but this is much more than a kiddy's guide to Aid, it's a brilliant and persuasive call to change the system and the way society thinks about funding development overseas. It's a a great book that should be read by everyone interested in the conundrum of world poverty in an era of plenty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Planners Vs. Searchers, 7 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good (Paperback)
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 fortunate countries and their citizens. He uses a vast amount of research into many countries and has drawn on his own experiences to ensure the message gets across.
The image of the planners and the searchers concept was new to development studies. A planner is the old way of working with developing countries where aid companies like IMF (International Monterey Fund) and World Bank gave money to the governments in hope that it would filter down to the disadvantaged citizens of the country. Easterly shows us that being a searcher who finds small projects to fund is a more beneficial and economically viable avenue to go down. As most of the countries who receive aid have corrupt governments this will ensure less aid is going to them.
There are a lot of examples of different countries within the book which show positive aid efforts contrasted with negative aid efforts. The majority of the book looks at countries that are not good examples but towards the end he pulls on more positive cases. Easterly focuses on the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries to show positive examples of aid reaching who it they need to.
There is a lot of research to propose the question, how is aid working in developing countries. When Easterly is making presumptions, he would let you know he has no way of proving it. Through highlighting that the aid companies have been recently putting measures in place to ensure that aid is being used in the right places. This shows that people like the World Bank and IMF have thought about what throw aid at disadvantaged countries is doing.
When this book was published this seemed to be a new idea with in development. Sach's work was a main influence in Easterly's work, although Easterly has developed the main themes (Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2005). These pieces then lead to other publications investigating this concept. `Dead aid' looks at the concept from a purely economic view and crisis's aid development much like Easterly (Moyo, 2010). Whereas `War games' gives a lot of examples of NGO's and creates practical solutions to aid problems (Polman, 2011). Both of these works used `The White Man's Burden' as a precursor.
Easterly writes about the history of colonisation and other events that have impacted on the third world towards the end of the book. This made me think that he has not looked into the history as much as the present. The present is a good place to start but most of the reasons for giving aid is because of colonial reasons according to earlier work (Fanon, 2008). Although, looking at the situation without history is a different and objective view, this cannot be the only way in which to evaluate disadvantaged countries.
Easterly has a background working within the World Bank and makes very good arguments in regards to disturbing aid to countries that have corrupt government. He can understand and put in perceptive what different organisations can do. He also has a strong background economics with being the co-editor of the `Journal of Development Economics' and being a professor of economics at New York University (William Easterly, 2013). With this experience his presumptions that he makes are valid and are clearly clarified due to his experience.
Throughout the book, Easterly gives us examples that Western readers can relate to. There are many examples including; Ambulance and accident references also Harry Potter sales references. `Feedback without accountability is like the bumper sticker I once saw on an eighteen-wheeler: DON'T LIKE MY DRIVING? CALL 1-800-SCREW-YOU.' - Easterly, pg14. This explained how accountability is very vital to aid as it will ensure that someone is working towards a meaningful outcome. This analogy shows that calling that number will not help the driver to improve which goes the same for aid agencies. Easterly uses these examples to explain complex ideas.
Having an example of what Africa is like at the end of the chapter makes the reader understand what the problems really are. When reading statistics you can get caught up in them and dehumanise the problems. Easterly ensures you that the problems that are affected by the statistics can be brutal and heartfelt.
This book was very easy to follow and a pleasure to read. It made the subject of aid interesting and gives the reader a lot to go away with. The new ideas and concepts that have been put together have been a new idea not just to me but also the whole International Relations community at the time. Not looking at the history first makes you think outside the box and the examples help bring home what a vitally important issue aid is.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Easterley, W., 2006. The White Man's Burden: why the west's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fanon, F., 2008. Black Skin, White Masks (Get Political). 3rd ed. Sidmouth: Pluto Press.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2005. The End of Poverty: Economic Possiblities for Our Time. New York: Penguin Press.
Moyo, D., 2010. Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. 1st ed. London: Penguin .
Polman, L., 2011. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times. 1st ed. London: Penguin.
William Easterly, 2013. William Easterly. [Online]
Available at:[...]
[Accessed 21 11 2013].
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