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The Age of the Development Expert

Foreign Policy magazine just released its top 100 Global Thinkers for 2009. Twelve out of the top 100 were what is loosely called “development experts:”

 Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart (20), Paul Collier (36), Jeffrey Sachs (39), William Easterly (39), Esther Duflo (41), Muhammad Yunus (46), Amartya Sen (58), George Ayittey (76), Paul Farmer (83), Jacqueline Novogratz (85), Andrew Mwenda (98).

 With the obligatory caveats about the more well-deserving who were omitted and questionable rankings, it is nice to see the diversity of the list: female and male, Central Asian, South Asian, African, European, and American, pro-aid and anti-aid, self-confident experts and those who don’t believe in experts (e.g. me), and even good experts and bad experts (kidding)?!

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  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Surprised Dr Moyo is not on the list…not because I think she deserves it.

    Posted November 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  2. edawg wrote:

    The name on that list that surprises me most is George Ayittey. I think he makes some good points and it’s immeasurably valuable to have African intellectuals participating in the aid debate to the extent that he has, but I find his ideas rather shallow and undeveloped and his writing repetitive and tedious. I made these points at greater length in my review of his book here:

    Posted November 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  3. VEDiCarlo wrote:

    Congratulations on making the list! While compilations such as these can sometimes be futile and mere pats-on-the-back garnered by those on the “inside,” this one serves as a required reading list for anyone hoping to become literate in global development politics. Not only does it summarize global successes of 2009, but it points a student like myself toward ongoing opportunities, still flush with possibilities.

    Posted November 29, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  4. Avam wrote:

    Congratulations! Although I don’t think I can bring myself to read who exactly were named as the top 12 going by your comment that “Twelve out of the top 100 were what is loosely called “development experts:” (Gates and Clinton ok – but I’m guessing it also mentions Bono, and in worst nightmare scenarios….Jolie and, hey, maybe Pitt, Clooney and anyone else ever in, or even loosely associated with, an Ocean’s 11/12 or 13 film…)

    I’m extremely surprised that Amartya Sen is 58 though…esp when Collier (!?!) is 36.

    (As an aside, has anyone seen the movie Bruno? As in one scene Bruno meets with two – apparently real – PR Charity consultants ‘for celebrities wanting to enter the ‘humanitarian aid’ world’. Beggars belief but worth watching.)

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  5. Avam wrote:

    Ahh – re-read your post (was thinking it was a 100 people – all in ‘development’ in some way or another – my mistake – so can scratch my earlier comment re celebrities)…still though, Malcom Gladwell as number 19…out of the top 100 global thinkers in the World?? seriously? Come on Foreign Policy – that’s absurd.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:44 am | Permalink
  6. Michael Clemens wrote:

    Emily Oster is on the list too — that arguably raises the count from 12 to 13. Her ideas have certainly been influential in development circles.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  7. edawg wrote:

    I think you have to include Elinor Ostrom as a “development expert” as well.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink
  8. Alessandra Fontana wrote:

    What about Latin America?

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  9. Stephen Jones wrote:

    The list is embarrassing.

    World’s no 2 Great Thinker, Barack Obama. No 13, Dick Cheney and it gets worse.

    Posted December 5, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

2 Trackbacks

  1. By uberVU - social comments on November 29, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Easterly: Aid Watch: the Age of the Development Expert (Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers), incl strange choices (me #39)

  2. By Going Pro « Tales From the Hood on December 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    […] – I found more annoying than normal. @Bill_Easterly, way to push my buttons, bro. (e.g.,  here, here, and […]

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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