The lonely international aid critic

Written by on October 22, 2009 in Helping Without Hurting, Notes By The Way 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: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .


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  • 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.

  • 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.