The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor

Author(s): William Easterly

Current Affairs

Over the last century, global poverty has largely been viewed as a technical problem that merely requires the right "expert" solutions. Yet all too often, experts recommend solutions that fix immediate problems without addressing the systemic political factors that created them in the first place. Further, they produce an accidental collusion with "benevolent autocrats," leaving dictators with yet more power to violate the rights of the poor. In The Tyranny of Experts, economist William Easterly, bestselling author of The White Man's Burden, traces the history of the fight against global poverty, showing not only how these tactics have trampled the individual freedom of the world's poor, but how in doing so have suppressed a vital debate about an alternative approach to solving poverty: freedom. Presenting a wealth of cutting-edge economic research, Easterly argues that only a new model of development--one predicated on respect for the individual rights of people in developing countries, that understands that unchecked state power is the problem and not the solution --will be capable of ending global poverty once and for all.


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New York Times Book Review "Bracingly iconoclastic... Easterly's stories unfailingly reinforce a select number of crucial themes, the boldest being that the people of the so-called underdeveloped world have been systematically betrayed by the technocrats in charge of the global development agenda." Eduardo Porter, New York Times "William Easterly one of the profession's most determined skeptics...In the real world, Professor Easterly says, development occurs as people identify problems and push for solutions through their political systems. Setting goals that nobody is truly responsible for achieving not only misrepresents what causes poverty but also substitutes goal setting for real action." Los Angeles Times Review of Books "There is something indomitable about William Easterly, and he has struck the development establishment where it is weakest: its appalling human rights record." Bloomberg View "[Easterly] is one of the most consistently interesting and provocative thinkers on development." Economist "Thought provoking." Gaurdian, UK "A provocative book that will rile the development world. But it deserves to be read by all those technocrats who jet around the planet with their simplistic top-down solutions, often ignoring rights they themselves take for granted. Ultimately, it is a timely blast against the complacency of those who think progress and prosperity can be detached from politics." Times of London "This powerful polemic against top-down aid projects convinces." Washington Post "A passionate, if fitful, argument against the conventional approach to economic development." Lancet "Fascinating." Shelf Awareness for Readers "Easterly makes essential points about human rights, the need to accommodate local factors in developing countries and the terrible mistakes that can result from deals with corrupt regimes or self-interested organizations. His argument is made with passion and ample illustration." Reason "Tyranny of Experts takes various tacks--historical, theoretical, technological, statistical--to explain, in theory and in practice, why international development economics should fundamentally rethink its premises and practices." Kirkus "Easterly delivers a scathing assault on the anti-poverty programs associated with both the United Nations and its political and private sector supporters...A sharply written polemic intended to stir up debate about the aims of global anti-poverty campaigns." Library Journal "Easterly's research may help start a dialog about identifying better methods for alleviating global poverty and should assist readers interested in humanitarian efforts who want to draw their own conclusions about how to aid the world's poor." Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development "This book is deeply radical and thought-provoking, and brilliantly entertaining. Easterly invokes Kahneman, Hayek, Hirschman; the free cities of 12th century Genoa and 18th century New York; the Erie Canal, Fujian and Benin; the "prison" of the nation state; the new generation of econometrics applied to human history, and more in making his argument: It is individual rights and political freedoms that safeguard spontaneous, shared and sustained development, and the prevailing technocratic approach subverts those rights at great cost to the global poor its adherents would help. Development insiders will, with some justification, complain about one-sidedness and exaggeration. But no one who starts this book will be able to put it down, or be able to undo its influence on her thinking about the deep determinants of development progress." Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University "Knowledge and expertise are fountainheads of prosperity and freedom, yet experts, especially foreign experts, have frequently been instruments of the very oppression that they seek to alleviate. The Tyranny of Experts tells the extraordinary story of authoritarian development. Those not familiar with Easterly's previous books are in for a revelation, and the many long time aficionados will be delighted to be back in the hands of the master." Paul Romer, New York University "Easterly's new book shows that the expert approach to development rests on an engrained but unexamined premise: that people in poor countries cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. As this wide-ranging and compelling account shows, this assumption is doubly flawed. It's morally offensive and a sure guide to bad policy." Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University "Bill Easterly is simply the most interesting and provocative economist writing on development topics today." Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Winner, Professor of Economics at Columbia University "In this impassioned book, William Easterly draws on a wealth of examples from history and from around the world to support his forceful call for a radical transformation in the way the world views development. Easterly shows that many of the contemporary debates about the nature of development have their roots in history and he argues that the rights of the individual and democratic values should not be trampled on by those seeking faster economic growth." Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University "Bill Easterly is the development economist, and he has come up with yet another striking and original success. This is the book that puts together the role of government, the failures of experts, and the best way forward into one comprehensive package."

William Easterly is a professor of economics at New York University and a director of NYU's award-winning Development Research Institute. He lives in New York City.

General Fields

  • : 9780465031252
  • : The Perseus Books Group
  • : Basic Civitas Books
  • : March 2014
  • : 235mm X 156mm X 35mm
  • : United States
  • : March 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : William Easterly
  • : Hardback
  • : 362.5526
  • : 416
  • : black & white illustrations, figures