this aggression will not stand
My jaw dropped when I read Jeffrey Sachs' attack on foreign aid expert and NYU professor Bill Easterly in the Huffington Post. Sachs, a prominent figure in the world of rich white people who convene in fancy hotels to talk about ways to help poor brown people, lumps in Easterly with Dambisa Moyo (whose recent book argues that foreign aid only hurts Africa) as an "opponent of foreign aid" with complete disregard for nuance, civility, and the facts.
This is ludicrous and Sachs knows it. Easterly does not denounce all foreign aid programs. Anyone who has actually read his work knows so. He simply asks, as the subtitle of his excellent Aid Watch blog proclaims, that aid actually benefit the poor. Easterly doesn't believe that programs planned in European and American capitals generally do so, and he contends that trusting locals and the free market to solve their own economic development problems is usually more effective.
He has a point. The long record of failed aid programs in the developing world that wasted billions of dollars and the failure of a long list of countries to develop in any meaningful sense in the last fifty years makes it clear that something is horribly wrong in our current system of foreign aid. Sachs does nothing to give a fair presentation of Easterly's actual views. It's not that Easterly opposes all forms of aid; it's that he opposes stupid aid that disregards the needs, preferences, and lifestyles of the recipients. An undergraduate reading one of Easterly's articles would understand the distinction. I am quite certain that Sachs does as well.
It's unfortunate that Sachs chose to include this sort of personal attack in what was otherwise a decent post on the ways that some foreign aid does help the world's poor through the provision of lifesaving medicines and access to clean drinking water. Sachs also points out the disingenuousness of those who denounce all aid programs but are themselves the recipients of foreign assistance. But he destroyed a lot credibility by digressing into an entirely unnecessary attack.
It's fine to disagree with the views of any given scholar; after all, that's mostly what graduate school trains us to do. I certainly don't agree with everything Easterly writes, but that doesn't give me license to blatantly misrepresent his claims. A person of Sachs' prominence should know better.
UPDATE: Easterly responds to Sachs here. Thanks to reader Lauren for the tip.