What is America's place in the world?

William Easterly is Professor of Economics at New York University, joint with Africa House, and Co-Director of the NYU Development Research Institute. He is also a non-resident Fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. Easterly received his Ph.D. in Economics at MIT and spent sixteen years as a Research Economist at the World Bank. He is the author of The White Mans Burden: How the Wests Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006), The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT, 2001) and over 50 published articles. Easterly's areas of expertise include the determinants of long-run economic growth and the effectiveness of foreign aid. He has worked in most areas of the developing world, but most notably in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Easterly is an associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Growth, and of the Journal of Development Economics.

  • Transcript


Well first do no harm. There is a diet plan that somebody told me about that was being marketed a while ago which was called “Stop the Insanity.” Just stop the insanity. Stop invading other countries. Stop pouring bushel fulls of money on corrupt governments. Stop twisting countries’ arms to adopt the kind of reform that experts in Washington and New York think they ought to adopt, which is really the wrong way to go about implementing any free markets or democracy. It can’t be imposed and coerced on other societies. Other societies have to freely choose their own freedom. It’s a ridiculous thing to think that we, the west, can impose freedom on other people. That contradicts the very idea of freedom. Freedom arises when people freely choose to protect their own freedoms, to seize their own freedoms, to assert their own freedoms. And so a lot of what the west can do is just stop doing the stupid thing we’re doing now. And once we get to that point, then I think there’s some positive things the west can do as far as exchanging intellectual ideas, exchanging technologies, making available technologies, making available our institutions of higher learning to students from all over the world, allowing free trading goods so that African cotton farmers can sell their cotton in our markets, which we’re not letting them into at the moment. That kind of thing, I think, is what mainly the west can do. Recorded On: 7/6/07