Skip to content

Monthly Archives: December 2009

Decade Ender Edition: We interrupt this blog for a brief self-promotional announcement

People from Ohio are not supposed to trumpet their own achievements. Ohioans have this belief that if you do the Unforgivable Sin of Self-Praise, a tornado will immediately strike and wipe out you and your entire family. “Pride goeth before a fall” is the state motto. Still, when you are labeled an “aid skeptic” and make enemies everywhere, if you don’t praise yourself, who’s going to? On top of that, I will appeal to a…

Posted in Books and book reviews, Meta | Tagged , , | 8 Comments


avatarI just saw Avatar. This movie is a metaphor for a lot of stuff we care about here at Aid Watch, such as…

Sorry, not this time. It’s a fabulous movie. I loved it. There’s nothing more to say.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Underwear Bomber illustrates limit of “Do Something” approach to public policy, with aid application

One of the celebrities once said about global poverty, “just do something, even if it’s wrong.”

This approach is deeply appealing to politicians. Politicians love to show off to the public they are addressing a tragic problem by “doing something,” without having to bother with all that crap about “whether it actually works.”

The latest terrorism scare provoked by the Underwear Bomber prompted these profound insights into political economy. The New York Times reported a…

Posted in Political economy | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

How to write about poor people, cont’d (the Interactive Edition)

This second post is the result of crowd-sourcing this satire.

I turned to all of you in response to one commenter who really thought I needed to improve the satire quality of the previous post. Another commenter suggests reading the all-time-great classic “How to Write About Africa,” which was of course an inspiration, and whose brilliant author, Binyavanga Wainaina,  I would no more dream of matching than Shakespeare.

An anonymous commenter  (an extremely talented, knowledgeable, and well…

Posted in Badvocacy and celebs | 37 Comments

How to write about poor people

  1. world-bank-poverty-numberUse a precise definition of poverty: living on less than $1.25 a day, adjusted for purchasing power. Give the precise number who fit that definition.
  2. Ignore the recent revision of  this number by 42%.
  3. Do not excessively analyze geographic or ethnographic distinctions amongst poor people.blank-world-map
  4. Discuss the following: poverty traps, vicious circles, aid financing gaps.
  5. There probably won’t be time left to discuss the following concepts: initiative, savings, inventiveness, resourcefulness, adaptation to

Posted in Badvocacy and celebs, Cognitive biases, Maps | 22 Comments

World Map of Remoteness vs. Connectedness (HT Tyler Cowen)



Posted in Economics principles, Maps | 15 Comments

Peter Singer and I on Tough Love for Our NGOs at NYT (the 6 minute video excerpt)

I am so grateful and humbled that my message on the accountability of aid has finally reached this extremely high profile — wait, I just realized, there is NO audience, it’s the holidays.

For those of you who didn’t have enough heavily spiked eggnog to listen to the whole 46 minute version, here is the New York Times’ 6-minute excerpt of the conversation, emphasizing microcredit, evaluation, overhead costs, and the limits of generic “answers.”

The audience gave us…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Christmas Charity Gift-Giving Video Edition: Peter Singer and I on

bhtv-2009-12-16-psToday, the New York Times-sponsored Bloggingheads.TV put up a 45 minute video discussion {video link: Peter Singer & William Easterly on}, where Peter and I discuss imposing tough love on the global poverty charities who take your Christmas gifts and donations.  I had given a critical review of Peter’s latest book in the Wall Street Journal. Yet, Peter and I wound up agreeing that there is just as big a moral obligation on you to make sure your favorite charity gets…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Books and book reviews | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Who knew that the aid organization most responsive to feedback is: the military?

I didn’t see this one coming: that the nicest responses I have ever gotten to criticisms made on this blog came from military officers (both this time and on one previous occasion). I didn’t know that a command-and-control ARMY would prove about 1 trillion times more responsive than the civilians at USAID. I didn’t know that a Lieutenant General would handle criticism better than a Starbucks PR executivewho flamed out in response…

Posted in Grand plans and aid targets, Maps | 11 Comments

What exactly is “Climate Aid”?

Alan Beattie has a great piece on this murky concept in the FT. Here is Alan’s exposition recast in the form of Q and A:

Q: Should “climate aid” be additional to existing aid?

A: Of course, except how do you define “existing aid”? Should the yet-to-be-fulfilled climate aid pledges be added to the yet-to-be-fulfilled pledges for general aid made in Gleneagles in 2005? Or should they just be added to the actual current…

Posted in In the news | 3 Comments