Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On aid....

The issue of development assistance (aid) has been getting increasing attention lately in the popular imagination of the people in the United States. I've posted some stuff on the blog. A lot of what the pundits write is just posturing. That is, it is at a level divorced from the concrete, and the question is posed as "is it good or bad?" when the real question is "how to make aid expenditures more effective?". There is no short-term future where people earning $50,000 a year don't "help" people earning $500 a year. It is silly to make the argument that those people at the $500 a year should just "pull themslves up". So ask yourself what is the real question here of interest? For Sachs and Easterly, my cynical view is they approach the question this way: "How can I frame the question so that I sell a lot of books." There are literally hundreds of dry, technical books and articles about development aid and projects and other interventions. Why do those two become the "superstars" of the aid commentariat? Is it because they have something really interesting to say that goes beyond common sense? No, it's because they are willing to participate in the market for distorted caricatures of public intellectuals. They could stop churning out a book every two years, and go back to writing ordinary academic material. But that would not be so much fun, nor so lucrative.

That's cranky me writing there. Mellow me says Easterly and Sachs are both good reads.

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