Monday, February 13, 2006

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William Easterly trashes Angelina Jolie!!

William Easterly -- the anti-Jeff Sachs -- has an op-ed in today's Washington Post about Africa. He's upset at the do-gooding of Angelina Jolie and those of her ilk [Her ilk? You mean really attractive actresses? Is he upset at Salma, too?--ed. No, I'm talking about those who wish to "save" Africa.]:

Jeffrey Sachs and Angelina Jolie toured the continent on behalf of MTV, with Jolie asking how we can stand by and let it be destroyed. The world's leaders gathered at the United Nations in September to further discuss ending poverty in Africa, apparently unfazed by yet another voluminous U.N. report highlighting the failure of the grand plans (the "Millennium Development Goals") to make any progress. They repeated a familiar refrain: If aid efforts aren't producing the desired results, then redouble those efforts. The year closed with the rock star Bono being named Time magazine's person of the year (along with the rather more constructive Bill and Melinda Gates) for his efforts to save Africa....

Everyone, it seems, was invited to the "Save Africa" campaign of 2005 except for Africans. They starred only as victims: genocide casualties, child soldiers, AIDS patients and famine deaths on our 43-inch plasma screens.

Yes, these tragedies deserve attention, but the obsessive and almost exclusive Western focus on them is less relevant to the vast majority of Africans -- the hundreds of millions not fleeing from homicidal minors, not HIV-positive, not starving to death, and not helpless wards waiting for actors and rock stars to rescue them. Angelina, the continent has problems but it is not being destroyed....

The West's focus on sensational tragedies obscures the achievements of people such as Patrick Awuah and Robert Keter, who are succeeding even against tremendous odds. Economic development in Africa will depend -- as it has elsewhere and throughout the history of the modern world -- on the success of private-sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers. It will not depend on the activities of patronizing, bureaucratic, unaccountable and poorly informed outsiders.

The hard-working staff here at takes great pride in its stout defense of American celebrities. So we feel compelled to point out to raise the possibility that Easterly is just ticked off because he didn't get to go on safari with the lovely and talented Ms. Jolie. But I doubt it.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM


Economic development in Africa will depend -- as it has elsewhere and throughout the history of the modern world -- on the success of private-sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers.
Can Easterly really believe outsiders (perhaps not these particular outsiders, but in general) can have no effect on the success of private-sector entrepreneurs etc.? Where was he during the Econ 101 lectures about capital and market development?
posted by: Platypus on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

Easterly should face historical facts. If the government doesn't do it, then it doesn't get done.

posted by: Tom on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

When anyone from the U.S. gets involved in Africa we are criticized.

When we do not get involved in Africa we are criticized.

So how do we win this one?

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

I think the high favorability ratings towards the U.S. from Africans are not being held down by too much footage of Angelina and Brad.

Easterly seems determined to find something to complain about, and like all such people, he succeeds to his own satisfaction.

posted by: Anderson on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

I'm all for foriegn aid and debt forgivness too - but I get frustrated when its used for a $178,000 hotel bill to deliver a 15 minute speech at the UN. Heres the link:,,2089-2036138,00.html

posted by: wks on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

One of the wonderful things about Easterly is that he canít seem to mention Sachs without sneering.

Did they fall out over something important one time or is it just that he disagrees with his ideas?

posted by: Tim Worstall on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

Sneering aside, and not going into whether Easterly is a curmudgeonly let's-keep-our-damn-money-and-let-em-eat-cake kinda guy (I truly don't know the guy at all) -- he has a point about the need for political reform.

I have plenty of friends who are emigres from West Africa (Nigeria in particular) and it is absolutely true that the biggest obstacle to economic development in that country is political corruption and cronyism, NOT insufficient international aid. When the government officials operate on the principle that public service is really private service, and public money is private money to greatest extent they can get away with -- no amount of aid from any source is going to have much effect.

Ask any Nigerian why Nigeria, a resource-rich country, with a decently (for W.Africa) educated and very large work force, and lots of oil, to boot, remains poor. A whole lot of money moves through Nigeria and West Africa -- but only a scant few folks have it. Obasanjo in Nigeria is attempting to address this problem, but there's plenty of opposition to his efforts.

My point is not always to dismiss criticisms even from reactionaries (again, I don't know that Easterly is one); they might actually point out a central truth. We appreciate the intent of Angelina and Bono, but throwing more money at public corruption only serves to perpetuate it.

posted by: richrath on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

Uhmm to the best of my knowledge Angelina did not go to Africa but rather Asia. Easterly notes that point in his book. The part about criticising Angelina and even Bono is on their protest, "To double development aid funds and to get rid of debt." In both cases, Easterly points out that this has already been done, twice before (1960's and 1980's) and has not succeeded.

Although Easterly does give a positive view to the fact that both Angelina and Bono have at least hightened people's awareness to the plight of the poor. So I don't think Easterly is overly critical of Angelina and Bono's efforts.

Easterly makes it clear in his book that Outsiders CAN make a difference and he even makes examples of where outsiders have made a difference (India). However he points out to the type of difference that needs to be made. By us helping the private-sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers we stand a better chance of getting success. That theme seems very clear in his book. He even gives examples of this (again in India). But he makes it very clear that the current method of giving aid to governments (particularly in Africa) isn't working. The aid agencies don't work in Myanmar, North Korea or Zimbabwe because these countries are run by brutal dictators. So why should aid agencies help the DRC, Senegal, Uzbekistan or even Kenya when those countries are being run by Gangsters?

Surely by providing money to the Gangster type countries we are perpetuating a problem? And this is the "White Man's Burden." We want to do good but instead find ourselves doing bad. In say 50 years from now, we will look back and say, "The problems faced in developing countries during the early 2000's were made worse by the good intentions of the West. And I'm sure we may even get a series of hyped 'hidden agenda' stories that it was in our best interests to fund those gangsters and keep the people poor."

posted by: Mik on 02.13.06 at 09:08 AM [permalink]

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