Did you get the memo?

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I had to suppress a slight chuckle while reading William Easterly’s latest broadside (subscription required) against the development community in the Financial Times. Easterly was responding to the recent release of the final report from the World Bank Commission on Growth and Development. He had this to say:

...[T]his report represents the final collapse of the “development expert” paradigm that has governed the west’s approach to poor countries since the second world war.

Funny, I don’t see my colleagues packing up their bags and preparing to abandon their offices at the World Bank. Perhaps they have not yet received the memo that their services are no longer required?

While we can perhaps chalk this comment up to Easterly’s penchant for dramatic formulations (see here and here), he does make a valid point about the often vacuous nature of the language in a report created by a commission of some 20-plus members. The result of such efforts is inevitable—anodyne statements that everyone can agree on. Topic sentences like the following appear frequently:

Health is of deep value to people, regardless of its impact on growth.

Yet Easterly appears rather too eager to dismiss the work performed by the commission. While he supports the Hayekian view that unobstructed free markets are best, there are still questions that demand an answer. For example, someone must decide whether to print more money or less. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to have an “expert” to provide advice on these kinds of decisions. Keeping inflation at modest levels—a growing problem in many emerging markets—is undoubtedly a requisite for development to take place.

PLUS: Dani Rodrik hints at more fun to come in a recent blog post


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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