The lonely international aid critic

Written by on October 22, 2009 in Blog, Helping Without Hurting, Stories and Notes with 2 Comments

William Easterley reflects on why critics of AIDS vaccine research are applauded for discovering a fraud, but critics of international aid are like unwelcome guests at a party. Easterley argues that those who say we can end poverty through “simple panaceas” unsupported by the facts are not unlike the researchers who faked their vaccine research.

So why does medicine welcome critics and aid hates them? Perhaps us aid critics are just not as good as the medical critics. Or perhaps it is because we care so much more whether medicine really works than whether aid or military intervention really works?

Drug companies sell cures. What is international aid selling, and to who?

About the Author

About the Author: I live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I work with young adults transitioning from growing up in an orphanage to living independently. I also facilitate immersion learning programs for Japanese. I'm a photographer and video maker when time and opportunity permit. .


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  1. Great thought. I would like to read some Easterly once I can get time to do some free reading, which likely will be during the summer. I agree with him, often the “good intentions” crowd doesn’t worry about whether what they’re doing has the intended effect, and usually there’s money, fame, and political power involved, which is why it is hard to uproot.

  2. Andy says:

    Yes, you would like Easterly. He’s a person who believes in doing what’s right for the poor, and he believes that generally means working to increase their freedom. He has many sobering thoughts for people who want grand solutions, yet he must have a deep streak of compassion himself.

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