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The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  4,006 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews
William Easterly's The White Man's Burden is about what its author calls the twin tragedies of global poverty. The first, of course, is that so many are seemingly fated to live horribly stunted, miserable lives and die such early deaths. The second is that after fifty years and more than $2.3 trillion in aid from the West to address the first tragedy, it has shockingly lit ...more
Published February 1st 2007 by Penguin Press (first published 2006)
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William Easterly's poorly written challenge to Jeffrey Sachs and the global aid machine entitled, "White Man's Burden," was a selection from my Global Issues and Ethics book club at the Elliot Bay book company. Here is a link to an excellent review of Easterly's book. I agree almost completely with the author- Easterly has important points to make about accountability in global aid dispersement but his message is drowned in this book with his abuse of colleagues ...more
Dec 29, 2009 Juha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone working in international development.
The New York University professor and former World Bank economist, Bill Easterly, provides a scathing critique of the grand plans to transform entire Third World societies through development aid, as promoted by academic and other luminaries such as Jeffrey Sachs and Bono, as well as by many bilateral and multilateral development agencies. Building on a thorough historical analysis and deep understanding of how the development business works, Easterly convincingly argues that such utopian plans ...more
Frank Stein
Overall a pretty disappointing sequel, of sorts, to his earlier "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics." The latter remains one of my favorite books, examining as it does the long, convoluted history of economic thought on development and how different theories, from Rostow's "Takeoff" to a singular focus on population control, or education, have, when implemented, failed to lift the Third World out of poverty. It was both a wonderful intellectual ...more
missy jean
Sep 28, 2011 missy jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Aren't you all so happy that now that I'm in school, I can copy and paste my reading journals as goodreads reviews? :)

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, so I was excited to get started on it. The first chapter, I wasn’t feeling so sure about it. His introduction to global development issues seemed to be very market-heavy, and I kept thinking: Can we pursue this line of thinking without acknowledging the role that globalized market capitalism has played in creating the very economic i
Mar 26, 2013 Casey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
I have been really primed by all of the other authors in this field about what this book is about, so it is hard for me be be impartial in my review of this book. That being said this book is good but I have some reservations in saying it was great. At times I felt like it was a little bit insulting to my intelligence while at the same time it was interesting because of the counterarguments to traditional thinking in the development field he makes.

This book is almost a direct response, or count
Jessica Barrett
Dec 08, 2009 Jessica Barrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the more disturbing books I have read, in the sense that it challenged my world view and made me question my field of study at the time (international development). In fact, this book really steered me in another direction at a crucial time in my life, while I was in grad school at NYU where Easterly is a professor. For those who work in international development, the idea that such well-intentioned projects may actually do more harm than good is deeply unsettling. Even more so be ...more
Oct 28, 2007 shaw rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this on my friend's bookshelf in Lima. From what I remember of Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point (I read a few chapters at a book store cafe a while back), Easterly has a similar approach of simplifying a complex phenomena by coining terms (here, Planners and Seekers) and employing a ton of analogies (like every other paragraph) to make his argument more accessible to a larger audience. He also repeats/emphasizes his points a lot, perhaps for the same reason..(which I found a little annoyin ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think the problems and potential solutions presented in this book are of overwhelming importance for the aid community.

I can admit that Easterly's writing style is less than masterful, and that the examples and evidence that he uses is a bit hodge-podge and clearly not exhaustive. This book, by itself, does not provide a fool-proof case for Easterly's thesis.

However, I simply think this book is critically important because its easy to overlook the problems that Easterly brings up, and these pr
Feb 20, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easterly's conclusion is controversial because he recommends a market solution to the problem of poverty in Africa. He argues that the best relief efforts are spear-headed by "searchers"--those who work locally to address real needs that emerge through effective systems of feedback. "Planners," on the other hand, develop "big plans" for saving Africa, like buying a million mosquito nets and shipping them to Africa, where they sit in crates in warehouses unused.

Easterly is acerbic, sharp, often
I thought I would hate this book, because it is often trotted out by Conservatives/Libertarians as an excuse to leave the developing world to its own devices and abdicate any global responsibility for the poor. The book is a foil for Jeffrey Sachs' cheerleaderish The End of Poverty. Easterly's major argument is that Western aid efforts are often paternalistic, bureaucratic, wasteful, and counterproductive. The main beneficiaries of the humanitarian-industrial-complex, he argues, are not the peop ...more
Dec 08, 2008 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-recently
As with all development books, some of the data here is hotly contested. Shortly after reading this book, I stumbled across a different study of mosquito nets in Africa that reached the opposite conclusion from the study that Easterly cites.

His overarching point seems in general to hold - the solution is to decentralize aid. It's a general economic point that I think most people can get on board with at a basic level. Instead of politicians/bureaucrats picking and choosing specific initiatives,
Oct 07, 2007 Adrienne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foreign aid wonks and do gooders
If you read The End of Poverty, you should read this book. I love the idea of this book, which is to spend foreign aid money, however much, on individual programs that produce good results even, and perhaps especially, those programs that perform well at the individual, family, and village level. That said, the writing and editing of this book leave a lot to be desired. To get your effort's worth, read the introduction and the first few chapters, read the chapters at the end on successful progra ...more
Aug 17, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-politics
I am arrived at this book far, far after it created a splash in the chattering classes (2006), so far after in fact that a long article featured in The New Republic just before its implosion (2014) repeated the same argument without attribution and was somehow treated as a radical departure and bold new thinking. Come to think of it, allowing aspiring big thinkers to present well-worn ideas as something provocative and innovative may have been part of TNR's problem in the first place. But I digr ...more
White Man’s Burden takes an enormous task to unfold a comprehensive topic of failing efforts of the West to fight inequality and other global challenges in the Rest. The author makes a strong argument that the planning approach, which has originated in the colonial era, has done more harm than good in addressing socio-economic problems in various parts of the world. The narration is not coherent, and the ideas spread throughout the book. However, the chapter one, which stands alone among other c ...more
Nov 15, 2007 Dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, economics
The road to hell is paved with good intentions the old adage goes and pretty much sums up William Easterly's conjecture in The White Man's Burden. Easterly, an economist specializing in economic growth and foreign aid, is skeptical of the Utopian Planners that are involved in foreign aid. The book has numerous examples where foreign aid has done little to no good to actually making things worse for the receiving country.

Easterly's position is that the West wastes time (millions are dying) and m
'Izzat Radzi
Ah, sudahlah jatuh, ditimpa tangga!

Membicarakan self-delusion negara kaya Barat yang terkinja-kinja ingin membantu negara lain. Hakikatnya, mereka hanya melambakkan duit dan sumber kekayaan mereka pada negara (baca : kerajaan) miskin, yang akhirnya, tidak akan sampai kepada yang asalnya dituju, iaitu pembangunan pendidikan, kesihatan melalui pencegahan dan bukan rawatan, dan berbagai lagi kegagalan dalam pelan mega mereka (Mega Blueprint) yang utopian.
Lebih malang, duit tersebut selalunya hilang
Jul 11, 2008 Blair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I began my education on international development, I was pretty short of practical experience in the field - so like many folks in that position (I had also just graduated from college), I became enamored with Jeffrey Sachs's theories of development - big plans, the Millennium Development Goals, the UN and so forth.

At the risk of sounding high and mighty, that is the crowd that Sachs appeals to - those without much experience in international development. Now, years later, I have a good bit
Jun 22, 2008 Austin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book challenges the belief that the West can deliver "big plan" solutions to the Rest. The assertion is that "Planners" develop idealistic aid packages without understanding those they intend to help, have no accountability in the outcome of the process, and have no feedback from anyone close to the situation. Billions of dollars are wasted through this because politicians, the IMF, the World Bank,etc love big plans and they can't really be held accountable for failed systems.

On the other h
I enjoyed reading this. I find Easterly's ideas fresh and plausible, and his background explanations and ideas written in a humorous and very accessible way. He uses practical examples and lots of solid political science to back up his assertions. His charts are hilarious (especially check out pp. 314-16 The Cold War Interventions Chart), his tables are plentiful and clear.

His basic thesis is that foreign aid is dominated by "Planners", who implement top-down, all-encompassing, utopian plans for
Sep 26, 2008 cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easterly's work is a must read for anyone who is considering how they can lend a hand in the fight against poverty and suffering in the world. to that extent, it is both encouraging and sobering. by drawing a distinction between Planners - those who propose big, utopian projects meant to solve all the worlds problems - and Searchers - those who hit the ground, figure out what is actually going on and what tangibly helps - he creates a framework for assessing the failure of global aid and the lit ...more
Oct 25, 2012 Kraychik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book shatters mythologies held by utopian statists that humanity can be perfected if only we plan everything out in great enough detail with the wisest persons on the planet. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what's needed: greater freedom to be given to individuals to allow them to unleash their creativity and problem-solving in as unrestricted a situation as possible. This book is a great accessory to Dambisa Moyo's expose "Dead Aid".

Jeffrey Sachs, a darling of the left, has his flaw
Feb 14, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that says grand ideas are utopian can be a bit of a frustrating read. What other ideas does Easterly suggest? Despite this drawback, Easterly has done a good job criticizing how aid is currently handled and making a case for smaller, more targeted interventions rather than just money drops. His hope that aid organizations focus their missions on the needy than the donors, is somewhat naive, however. Donors are not typically aid experts and appealing to their wishes adds to NGO prestige an ...more
May 14, 2011 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, development
Easterly explains the problems of international aid in terms of economics. He argues that "planners," experts who tend to make large, unmeasurable goals and all-encompassing programs without accountability for results not only does not lead to "development" of countries receiving aid, but often supports poor governance and at the least is a waste of money. He argues for smaller scale, recipient directed projects with clear accountability. Helped me understand better how poor governance causes un ...more
Jul 12, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non_fiction
The answer to all of your questions regarding international aid organizations, and why we don't seem to ever get anywhere.
Stephen Witt
Feb 23, 2009 Stephen Witt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Structurally it's a mess but I agree with everything the author has to say.
Vicky Griffith
Super interesting perspective but it's hard to get around the fact that this author is a real dickhead.
Jun 13, 2015 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The White Man’s Burden,” despite its inflammatory title, is a measured analysis of the ability of the West to help alleviate poverty in the rest of the world. The title is actually ironic, for the book concludes, in essence, that most of the burden the West has taken on has led to no improvement and much waste. This book is a companion, in many ways, to Easterly’s later book “The Tyranny of Experts.” It also has much in common with other books focusing on both the Great Divergence and the lifti ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Easterly's The White Man's Burden is the book Linda Polman and Dambisa Moyo were unable to write. Instead of listing failures of development aid and angrily ranting about inefficiencies and inabilities, Easterly recognizes the failures for what they are, while offering a paradigm shift, without excessively laying blame. And all the while doing so in a lovely eloquent style.

Easterly's primary observation, and the paradigm shift, is that development aid needs to move away from the planning mental
May 15, 2014 Stefan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is surely one of the worst-written and most flawed books I have ever read that was authored by an actual university professor. I have read many books usually labelled as pseudoscience that are much more coherent and make less basic mistakes than this rubbish.

Easterly starts out by repeatetly creating ridiculous analogies, Harry Potter and the Kentucky Derby being his strongest influences. J.K. Rowlings hit is mentioned almost a dozen times in the first 30 pages, pretty surprising for a book
SJ Loria
White Man’s Burden
Check out this link, it’ll help you understand why this book attacks the international jet set who is here to save the poor. Bono, saving Africa in style:
I was describing the basic premise of this book to my sister. She says, “so wait, we not supposed to do anything?”
My response was “we don’t need to, because they are more effective at helping themselves.”
It’s a kind of cold reality to accept in your head. That our attempts to help deve
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William Easterly is Professor of
Economics at New York University, joint with Africa House, and Co-Director of NYU's Development Research Institute. He is editor of Aid Watch blog, Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Co-Editor of the Journal of Development Economics. He is the author of The White Man’s Burden: How the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and S
More about William Easterly...

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“When you are in a hole, the top priority is to stop digging.” 5 likes
“Remember, aid cannot achieve the end of poverty. Only homegrown development base on the dynamism of individuals and firms in free markets can do that.” 5 likes
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