William Easterly (on global inequity and Harry Potter)

“On July 16, 2005, the American and British economies delivered nine million copies of the sixth volume of the Harry Potter children’s book series to eager fans….There was no Marshall Plan for Harry Potter, no International Financing Facility for books about underage wizards. It is heartbreaking that global society has evolved a highly efficient way to get entertainment to rich adults and children, while it can’t get twelve-cent medicine [to cure malaria] to dying poor children.”

William Easterly (b. 1957) is an American economist concerned with development and global poverty. I recently stumbled across his 2006 book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. (I only had time, though, to read the opening chapter.) In it, he elaborates his response to the likes of Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty), whom Easterly admires but labels a “Planner”, someone whose big-picture ideas for the elimination of economic injustice are just another example of patriarchal, top-down approaches to the needs of the poorest of the poor. Easterly argues that what he calls “Searchers”, with a grassroots and learning-centred way of thinking, will be more effective in this essential work. They will working directly with (or be) the local people themselves, harnessing their intelligence, experience and resourcefulness.

Two more books to read.