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.
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. Well the government of Sudan is perpetrating these atrocities obviously. Everyone around the world who values peace, and respect freedoms, and human rights cries out for these atrocities to stop immediately. The people of Sudan have already been fighting against this government oppression. The rebel movements have resisted the government’s oppression and they’re slowing working their way toward peace, which I think they’re mainly going to achieve on their own. And it’s not going to be much that the west can do to accelerate peace in Darfur and the rest of Sudan, including South Sudan which has already achieved a peace agreement; but it’s fairly fragile at the moment that’s something that the people of South Sudan and North Sudan have to continue to work very hard on – maintaining that fragile peace agreement, and then holding their own governments accountable for respecting their freedoms, and respecting their human rights, respecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, so that they can hold their governments accountable. They can call them to account for war crimes or atrocities.I’m certainly in favor of humanitarian aid to help the refugees from Darfur that are in desperate straights. I think it’s a no brainer. I can’t see who could be against that. But we’re gonna have to be humble once again as what we can do from the outside. We can’t figure out other people’s problems for them. The realities on the ground in Darfur are a lot more complex than the way they’re portrayed in the western media. And some westerner who goes in with the media stereotypes of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, are more likely make things worse. Things are a lot more complex than that. There are a mixture of good guys and bad guys on each side, and you have to sort of let them sort it out by themselves. Recorded On: 7/6/07