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What do readers think of Bill Easterly's book, 'The White Man's Burden'?

Written by Simon Maxwell


Bill Easterly's new book has attracted a lot of publicity, mainly because it provides a strong criticism of aid.  We helped him launch the book in London on 21 September, at a meeting chaired by David Goodhart, Editor of Prospect Magazine.  David subsequently set up a debate in the magazine between Bill and Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development.

We had two discussants at the launch, me and Bob Picciotto.  You can read our comments here.  My own review began as follows:

'Bill Easterly has been criticised - by no less an authority than Amartya Sen - for being 'swept up by the intoxicating power of purple prose'. Unkind, I think. This book is a hoot from start to finish. Whether he is poking fun at UN jargon on donor coordination, describing his experience with an electric blanket, or citing the 'bons mots' of his small children, Easterly is nothing if not entertaining. Add the fact that he segues rapidly from history to statistical analysis to anecdote and back again, and Easterly has delivered a classic page-turner. This is one you can take to the beach.

Whether you will want to bring it home from the beach is another matter. There are some readers - foremost among them Jeff Sachs - I would expect to bury the book in the sand or hurl it furiously into the waves. The book is a polemic. It will make most development specialists squirm at some point and require them to wander off for a calming ice cream. '

The full review can be accessed by clicking here.