Easterly channels Lenin

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Well, sort of. Bill Easterly reviews Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion in the most recent New York Review of Books. As Easterly points out, Lenin argued that the capitalist powers would divide up the globe between them; Easterly himself comments on the increasingly intertwined ventures of foreign aid and military intervention. I'll just let the inimitable professor speak for himself:

International aid organizations have also begun linking military intervention to fighting poverty. The World Bank was among the first when it suggested in a prominent 2003 report, Breaking the Conflict Trap, that aid combined with military action "could avert untold suffering, spur poverty reduction, and help to protect people around the world from...drug-trafficking, disease, and terrorism." The report suggested that such combined action could halve the probability of a civil war breaking out in a poor country from precisely 44 percent to 22 percent.

This new approach to foreign aid has been encouraged, in part, by the concern of Western governments since September 11 that terrorist groups are emanating from war-torn, impoverished societies. But the influence of social scientists, building upon decades of thinking about poverty and development, should not be underestimated. The principal author of the 2003 World Bank report was Paul Collier, at that time head of the bank's Development Research Group, a noted Africanist, and one of the world's leading experts on civil war and the reconstruction of failed states. He has since returned to his longstanding professorship in economics at Oxford University, where he has written his new book, The Bottom Billion, which brings together for general audiences his academic research on the world's poorest countries.

And what does Easterly think of the book? I recommend reading the whole thing for yourself, but here is the crux of it:

...nobody should rush to embrace the new aid imperialism, in which soldiers and aid workers are supposed to intervene together in a poor society, on the basis of social science research like that presented in The Bottom Billion.



Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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