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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[…]

American foreign policy has created a hornet’s nest.

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

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