- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 4, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465031250
- ISBN-13: 978-0465031252
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 68 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Garth Brooks: The Anthology Part 1 | Limited Edition
A great gift for country music fans, The Anthology Part 1 includes CDs containing the music of Garth's first five years, and behind-the-scenes photographs and stories never before made public. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
New York Times Book Review
Bracingly iconoclastic.... Easterly’s stories unfailingly reinforce a select number of crucial themes, the boldest being that the people of the so-called underdeveloped world have been systematically betrayed by the technocrats in charge of the global development agenda.”
Eduardo Porter, New York Times
"William Easterly ...is one of the profession's most determined skeptics...In the real world, Professor Easterly says, development occurs as people identify problems and push for solutions through their political systems. Setting goals that nobody is truly responsible for achieving not only misrepresents what causes poverty but also substitutes goal setting for real action.”
Los Angeles Times Review of Books
There is something indomitable about William Easterly, and he has struck the development establishment where it is weakest: its appalling human rights record.”
[Easterly] is one of the most consistently interesting and provocative thinkers on development.”
A provocative book that will rile the development world. But it deserves to be read by all those technocrats who jet around the planet with their simplistic top-down solutions, often ignoring rights they themselves take for granted. Ultimately, it is a timely blast against the complacency of those who think progress and prosperity can be detached from politics.”
Times of London
This powerful polemic against top-down aid projects convinces.”
A passionate, if fitful, argument against the conventional approach to economic development.”
Easterly (New York University) has written a book that grabs a reader’s attention from the first sentence .Highly recommended”
Readable and fascinating.... I found a valuable if somewhat iconoclastic read and would recommend it to anyone in the social sector”.
Cato Institute's Regulation
"The Tyranny of Experts is intellectual comfort food for people who are skeptical of the idea that the only things standing between us and a world free of poverty are insufficient funding and political will.”
Shelf Awareness for Readers
Easterly makes essential points about human rights, the need to accommodate local factors in developing countries and the terrible mistakes that can result from deals with corrupt regimes or self-interested organizations. His argument is made with passion and ample illustration.”
Tyranny of Experts takes various tacks--historical, theoretical, technological, statistical--to explain, in theory and in practice, why international development economics should fundamentally rethink its premises and practices.”
A provocative traverse of history and philosophy.”
"Easterly delivers a scathing assault on the anti-poverty programs associated with both the United Nations and its political and private sector supporters....A sharply written polemic intended to stir up debate about the aims of global anti-poverty campaigns."
Easterly's research may help start a dialog about identifying better methods for alleviating global poverty and should assist readers interested in humanitarian efforts who want to draw their own conclusions about how to aid the world's poor."
Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development
This book is deeply radical and thought-provoking, and brilliantly entertaining. Easterly invokes Kahneman, Hayek, Hirschman; the free cities of 12th century Genoa and 18th century New York; the Erie Canal, Fujian and Benin; the "prison" of the nation state; the new generation of econometrics applied to human history, and more in making his argument: It is individual rights and political freedoms that safeguard spontaneous, shared and sustained development, and the prevailing technocratic approach subverts those rights at great cost to the global poor its adherents would help. Development insiders will, with some justification, complain about one-sidedness and exaggeration. But no one who starts this book will be able to put it down, or be able to undo its influence on her thinking about the deep determinants of development progress.”
Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University
Knowledge and expertise are fountainheads of prosperity and freedom, yet experts, especially foreign experts, have frequently been instruments of the very oppression that they seek to alleviate. The Tyranny of Experts tells the extraordinary story of authoritarian development. Those not familiar with Easterly’s previous books are in for a revelation, and the many long time aficionados will be delighted to be back in the hands of the master.”
Paul Romer, New York University
"Easterly's new book shows that the expert approach to development rests on an engrained but unexamined premise: that people in poor countries cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. As this wide-ranging and compelling account shows, this assumption is doubly flawed. It's morally offensive and a sure guide to bad policy."
Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University
"Bill Easterly is simply the most interesting and provocative economist writing on development topics today."
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Winner, Professor of Economics at Columbia University
"In this impassioned book, William Easterly draws on a wealth of examples from history and from around the world to support his forceful call for a radical transformation in the way the world views development. Easterly shows that many of the contemporary debates about the nature of development have their roots in history and he argues that the rights of the individual and democratic values should not be trampled on by those seeking faster economic growth."
Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University
"Bill Easterly is the development economist, and he has come up with yet another striking and original success. This is the book that puts together the role of government, the failures of experts, and the best way forward into one comprehensive package."
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
William Easterly – The Tyranny of Experts
Reviewed by Katelyn G.
William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts is an eye-opening book and
worthwhile reading for anyone who wants to work in development or gain a deeper
understanding of effective methods to alleviate poverty. The book serves as a strong
argument in favor of spontaneous solutions to problems in development over an
authoritarian, technocratic approach that denies individual rights. Through many
historical examples from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, Easterly demonstrates
that although technocratic solutions may solve some development problems in the short
term, greater long-term prosperity can be achieved in societies that promote free trade,
innovation and entrepreneurship.
The sense of history within The Tyranny of Experts is one of its great strengths.
Critiquing “Blank Slate” thinking throughout the book, Easterly provides valuable
historical context to educate the reader on how current development thinking evolved,
tracing its beginnings to the post-colonial era, when Western powers needed a reason to
retain power and influence as their empires collapsed. Later, Cold War strategy would
lead countries like the United States to support autocratic leaders and technocratic
development initiatives that helped it retain influence in the face of the Communist threat.
It is clear that the Western approach to development has always served multiple political
Easterly’s emphasis on history over the long term enables him to highlight how
different practices work over generations. For example, in discussing the insular trading
practices among the Maghribi people, Easterly is able to identify how the level of trust
between group members facilitated trade, but ultimately inhibited prosperity by limiting
with whom the group could and would trade. Again, Easterly brings home the message
that history must not be ignored, and therefore a good solution in one country may not be
the right solution for another based on the specific context of each.
Throughout The Tyranny of Experts, we see that poverty is complex, and not
caused by a lack of talent or intelligence among people who are just waiting for
development experts to save them (as the deeply racist post-colonial leaders seem to have
thought). This examination of history and motive makes for an exciting read, providing a
new lens through which to review topics most of us have researched before, like the slave
trade. Easterly argues that, “oppression has broad consequences that hold back
development” (159). He explains that even today, countries from which people were
taken to be sold as slaves experience greater levels of poverty, and are more reluctant to
trade with local neighboring communities that helped capture their people. Italy serves as
another example Easterly provides to highlight the long term consequences of oppression
as the author shows how Italian cities that experienced absolute rule in the twelfth
century and were more restricted in trade do not fare as well even today as those that
were free cities. A history of limited rights and damaged relationships negatively impacts
trade opportunities, thereby inhibiting development. Easterly’s examples demonstrate that
those consequences can last for centuries.
The book maintains credibility by acknowledging arguments his detractors could
make about the success of technocratic initiatives. Easterly questions solutions that, at
first glance, seem to have worked. One example provided is an autocratic Ethiopia’s
reduction of child mortality, which led to accolades from leaders and influences like
Tony Blair and Bill Gates. Easterly acknowledges this perceived success, but uncovers
flaws in reporting that call into question whether such results are worth. We find that
childhood mortality data is known to be imprecise, especially in nations where birth and
death rates are not reliably reported (123). Meanwhile, this Ethiopian regime was known
for oppressing political rivals and denying them food aid, a fact ignored by those who
were celebrating the regime’s success in health initiatives.
I also want to credit Easterly for consistency in his approach. When he argues in
favor of protecting individual rights to promote prosperity, he values the individual above
the state. I was struck by his inclusion of arguments in favor of freedom of movement,
which particularly caught my attention, as the immigration debate is ever ongoing.
Easterly gives the example that most Haitians who have lifted themselves out of poverty
are living outside of Haiti. In addition, he questions why a skilled professional like a
doctor from a poorer country should remain at home out of loyalty to the needs of his or
her country, particularly when that individual could live a much more prosperous life by
relocating to the United States. To see Easterly treat individual rights with enough
importance to transcend borders was especially refreshing after reading through the many
ways that racism has influenced development policy.
The ultimate purpose of all of this history, all these different case studies from
across the world, is to highlight how an emphasis on individual rights is proven to lead to
greater prosperity. Although an autocrat may be able to accomplish specific development
goals faster, it may not be sustainable or worth the price of oppression. Easterly writes
that, “oppression has broad consequences that hold back development” (159). As we have
seen in the examples I have cited, the negative consequences of autocratic rule can last
Of course, moving away from autocracies cannot happen overnight, and in certain
cases it may make sense to support positive initiatives that will promote health, and
therefore prosperity, even if the government itself is deeply flawed. In reading The
Tyranny of Experts, I appreciated that Easterly is ever grounded in reality, and the author
posits that, “an incremental positive change in freedom will yield a positive change in
well-being for the world's poor.” Although change will not happen instantaneously,
moving toward greater autonomy will encourage innovation, trade and prosperity.
Easterly concludes that we must not be “seduced” by seemingly benevolent
autocrats, whose power means that they can accomplish development goals faster, but at
too great a cost. It is here that I believe Easterly misses an opportunity. I would have been
interested to see the book discuss the rights of women in relation to autocracies. To me,
this would have been particularly relevant, as rights for women have been known to
increase under autocrats. Under Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, women enjoyed such
perks as proportional representation in parliament. As Mubarak’s government was
overthrown and a new government was forming, laws that increased the rights of women
were labeled, “Suzanne’s Laws” after Mubarak’s wife, linked to the old regime and seen
as initiative’s whose true purpose was to appease the West. This strange connection
between women’s rights and oppressive rule is part of the reason women so often see
their rights disappear during political transition. I would be interested to see Easterly
include a comparison of case studies specific to women in autocratic societies versus free
societies. Such a discussion could have fit nicely with Easterly's exploration of the
decline of child mortality in Ethiopia, and how it led to the Western leaders overlooking
the problematic aspects of a dictator's rule (such as denying political opponents food aid).
And as Whole Planet Foundation has a strong focus on empowered women changing
their own lives through entrepreneurship, it would have made the book even more
relevant to our work (surprisingly, Easterly did not write this book only for us).
The Tyranny of Experts is a valuable history lesson and a highly recommended
read. It will ask the reader to question “facts” and statistics presented by development
institutions, to rethink old ideas about historical events and to value the rights of the
individual, even when an autocrat manages to accomplish some good initiatives. I often
think that confirmation bias causes people to seek out books that will verify what they
already think, and that it is difficult to change anyone’s opinion. I believe this book
presents arguments compelling enough to challenge existing beliefs.
However, his logic, while reserved for development planners, results in a very powerful argument for less central planning and more chaos of the market place even in the first world. He shows quite explicity that Smith's Invisible Hand holds way too much knowledge and experience for the ivory tower folks to ever be able to produce something so efficient as the chaotic free market.
While he does clearly believe in the free market for societies, he makes an argument for government where government is truly needed.
The writing style is casual and so it’s not hard to find holes in the arguments, but it’s an interesting contribution to the debate nevertheless. Read this if you are starting to believe in the “Chinese model” of development.
There were lots of good insights, but I particularly liked the chapter on innovation.