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 I think the big intellectual battle of our time is going to be individualism versus collectivism. And that battle is not totally won in the west yet either. I think the actions of the U.S. in doing things like invading Iraq have turned out to be a very poor advertisement for western freedoms and democracy, because we’ve gone around and meddled in the affairs of another society and created this awful hornet’s net by our meddling. That’s not a great advertisement for the virtues of letting people solve their own problems, letting them figure it out for themselves, letting people rule themselves. That’s a debate that right now I’m afraid the west may be losing, because the actors like the U.S. government under the Bush Administration have been doing things that are not consistent with the values of individual freedom.Well I think people can kind of forget how they got to where they are. We forget as Americans that we got to where we are through individual freedoms; and by letting people rule themselves; letting our local community solve most of their own problems; letting our states solve their own problems, the constituent’s states of the United States. We suddenly start to think that maybe we’re somehow kind of culturally, or technologically, or intellectually superior to other cultures, and we can go in and invade them and fix their problems. That totally contradicts how we achieved our own development. We didn’t have anyone invade us and fix our problems. We fixed our own problems in a homegrown way. And so I think the U.S. has kind of lost its way, its founding values, and some of its foreign policy adventures, its military adventures from overseas. Recorded On: 7/6/07