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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Is USAID about Aid or Development?

Guest blog by Lant Pritchett, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The name of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is too clever by half. By forming the acronym “aid” it attempts to create popularity (who could be against “aid” broadly interpreted as “assistance” to the world’s poorest?) at the expense of perhaps confusing everyone, including itself, about its actual mission. There are many ways of…

Posted in Political economy | Tagged , | 20 Comments

“Whites make locomotives; Negroes cannot make simple needles”

by Diane Bennett


The poor can’t sleep

Because their stomachs are empty.

The rich have full stomachs,

But they can’t sleep

Because the poor are awake.

-Copper miner

Lusaka, Zambia

I have been privileged to work with some of the poorest people in the world in South Sudan. Their daily life is a constant struggle to feed, shelter and clothe their families. I have been, quite literally, the rich person who couldn’t sleep. So…

Posted in Academic research | 15 Comments

Rulers, communities, and revolution

by William Easterly

enhanced_declaration_of_independence_scan_200w.png“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to [the pursuit of liberty], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.”

These inspirational words may have been in the mind of courageous rebels who revolted recently against tyrannical Rulers.

I’m not sure what words were on their minds, though, because some of the rebels were dogs and toddlers.

dog-and-toddler_150.pngWelcome to the Great NYU Play-In Revolution that occurred at…

Posted in Economics principles | 7 Comments

Paul Farmer and the Human Right to Development

by William Easterly


I’ll write one final post to complete the human rights trilogy, then collapse from exhaustion and go back to easy topics like World Bank follies.

Paul Farmer is my hero as a man of action, who has done amazing things for poor people at great personal sacrifice. He is also a forceful advocate for the human rights of the poor to health care, to food, to housing, to literacy, and to…

Posted in Global health | 13 Comments

UN Human Rights and Wrongs

Last Friday’s post “Poverty is not a human rights violation” spurred a very healthy dialogue on rights, including a response from Amnesty International , which mentioned the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

I will not be a last word freak and answer Amnesty directly. But let’s talk about rights at the UN. The UN publicizes such positive rights as “right to water,” “right to housing,” “right to health”, etc. These rights sound wonderful,…

Posted in Human rights | Tagged , | 19 Comments

Amnesty International Responds to “Poverty is Not a Human Rights Violation”

by Sameer Dossani, Demand Dignity Campaign Director at Amnesty International

Bill Easterly takes on Amnesty International’s 2009 Annual Report. I know and respect Easterly’s work; I’ve even been on a few panels with him over the years on aid effectiveness and the World Bank, but I have to say he’s pretty off base here.

The basic premise of his post is this:

The only useful definition of human rights is one where a

Posted in Human rights | 19 Comments

Poverty is not a human rights violation


The title of this blog will make many think I am callous, and yet I definitely agree that poverty is an EXTREMELY BAD THING. Perhaps some use the words “human rights violation” to be equivalent to “extremely bad thing,” but why? There are many different “extremely bad things,” and it helps if everybody discriminates between them.

The only useful definition of human rights is one where a human rights crusader could identify WHOSE rights…

Posted in Human rights | Tagged | 30 Comments

Here’s a US development program working – stop it immediately!


“[O]pen trade and international investment are the surest and fastest ways for Africa to make progress,” President Bush said when he signed an extension to the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) in 2004. Originally signed into law in 2000, AGOA removes US quotas and duties for thousands of products coming from some 40 sub-Saharan African countries.

AGOA has led to an overall increase of 8% in non-oil exports to the US, according to…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Big ideas, Trade | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

How to Reach Closure after Bloodstained-Car Wreck-Level Trauma of Debating Sachs?

In an attempt to wrap up the endless back and forth on the Huffington Post (my latest post went up today), here is a cheat sheet of how the debate proceeded. Since this was produced by one of the debate participants, it might be a trifle one-sided:

Posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , | 21 Comments

I’m a Twit!

The final conversion of an absent-minded, balding, middle-aged male born in 1957 in West Virginia into a 21st century techie: I’m going to start Tweeting. Check out @bill_easterly

Posted in Meta | 1 Comment