Easterly on experts

March 9, 2014

Bill Easterly may be the most provocative economist at NYU. He’s a clear thinker with a wry sense of humor in an area — economic development — in need of both. I use this quote in class: “Mr Gates says you can’t eat GDP. He apparently missed the lecture on the components of GDP — for example, food.” His bio lists him as “the 11th most famous native of Bowling Green, Ohio.” (Raise your hand if you looked up the others.) 

Bill is back with a new book, The Tyranny of Experts. My one sentence summary: Experts from developed countries who have “helped” poor countries have, on the whole, made things worse. Why is that? Well, one reason is that development is complicated: a lot depends on local conditions, which locals know more about than foreign experts. Another is that the local governing class may have no interest in development that dilutes their power. That’s why we give governance some prominence in the Global Economy course.

There’s a lot more, and some truly compelling stories, but that’s the gist of it. If you don’t have time to read the book, I recommend this review in the FT, which I ran across via Diane Coyle. And here’s Bill’s review of Why Nations Fail, another good book with an even better blog.

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