It’s only fair that I respond to my critics, in the same way I ask others to respond to my criticisms. A comment by Jeff on the poverty tourism controversy was particularly negative, but also succinct and eloquent, and his concerns seem to overlap with those expressed by other, so I will respond to Jeff directly. I put his comments in bold and my response in italics.
The main take away from this blog in general seems to be this:
1) for the sake of your reputation and the world, steer your career clear of anything other than making money for yourself.
The intention with criticism is to induce change from bad aid behavior to better aid behavior. You are right, Jeff, that criticism could scare away some people from engagement in aid at all. I could do better in making clear that this is the LAST thing I want.
2) especially if you’re famous, be selfish. If you care about problems like poverty, keep your mouth shut.
I think that it is ridiculous that celebrities have a major voice on aid. But you are right that I could do better in recognizing the possibility of more modest and constructive celebrity engagement. I did do an event with Natalie Portman once.
3) only about 5 people in the world know anything about development and aid. Everyone else trying to do something is borderline evil.
That many? (joking)
I am a dissenter from the aid establishment (and not the only one); it badly needs dissent because there is too much group-think. There is a difference between dissent and arrogance, especially when my dissent often takes the form of questioning whether outsiders (including me) know enough to perform social engineering in other societies. But you are right I could do better showing respect to those I am dissenting from.
4) If you think you’re part of the solution, you’re really part of the problem.
Since you criticized arrogance in the previous point, Jeff, it’s probably worth it for all of us to double-check ourselves on (4).
5) private sector take heed: doing a little to help is usually worse than doing nothing at all.
The private sector should not get a free pass from criticism when they mix social and private enterprise, but social enterprise is often a good thing.
6) misguided good intentions should be dealt with harshly, with righteous indignation, rather than nudged toward more effective paths.
You are right, Jeff, I have to be careful about self-righteousness, particularly when it comes to moral/ethical issues like poverty tourism. I still strongly disapprove of poverty tourism, but I certainly do not get rich-poor interactions perfectly right all the time either. Based on yours and other feedback I have gotten, I think my tone was too harsh in response to Dr. Michael Grosspietsch on the Rwanda Millennium Village project. I apologize to him and to the others involved for my excessively harsh tone.