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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Mud-Wrestling on African Aid"

Jeff Sachs:

Aid Ironies: The debate about foreign aid has become farcical. The big opponents of aid today are Dambisa Moyo, an African-born economist who reportedly received scholarships so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong with denying $10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malaria bed net. Her colleague in opposing aid, Bill Easterly, received large-scale government support from the National Science Foundation for his own graduate training. I certainly don't begrudge any of them the help that they got. Far from it. I believe in this kind of help. And I'd find Moyo's views cruel and mistaken even she did not get the scholarships that have been reported...

Bill Easterly responds:

Sachs Ironies: Why Critics are Better for Foreign Aid than Apologists: Official foreign aid agencies delivering aid to Africa are used to operating with nobody holding them accountable for aid dollars actually reaching poor people. Now that establishment is running scared with the emergence of independent African voices critical of aid, such as that of Dambisa Moyo. Jeffrey Sachs, the world's leading apologist and fund-raiser for the aid establishment, has responded here with a ferocious personal attack on Moyo and myself, "Aid Ironies." Allow me to defend myself (I'll let the formidable Moyo handle herself). It's not so much my pathetic need to correct slanders, as if anybody cared. Sachs' desperation shows when he peddles what I will show he knew were falsehoods. Besides, the sight of two middle-aged white men mud-wrestling on African aid may entertain the audience. ...

Dambisa Moyo:

Aid Ironies: A Response to Jeffrey Sachs: Ahead of the publication of my book Dead Aid, an author friend of mine cautioned me about responding to opponents who found it necessary to color their criticism with personal attacks. This, he argued, is a tried and tested way of side-stepping the issues and providing a smoke screen when faced with a valid argument. Jeffrey Sachs's latest posting is just the latest example of using this tactic to obfuscate the facts and avoid addressing the fundamental issues regarding aid's manifest failure to deliver on its promise of generating growth and alleviating poverty in Africa. And though I am responding here in order to refute his arguments, as a fellow economist, I intend to rely on logic and evidence to make my argument and show Mr. Sachs the professional courtesy that he has failed to show to me. ...

And, again from Bill Easterly:

Am I attacking Sachs too much?: ...Let me respond to those concerned about the tone and divisiveness of this debate (and a little bit about my levity). ...

First, in the intellectual world as in the legal one, the accused has a right to face his accusers and mount a proper defense.

Second, the purpose of debate is to facilitate the emergence of the best ideas and to shoot down the worst ideas. I'm not always so cocksure I am right, but it is clear to me intellectually that Sachs' ideas are wrong, and I will combat them accordingly. An artificial consensus that stops the process of shooting down bad ideas is not a healthy intellectual practice. Sachs himself seems to keep trying to shut down the debate. ...

Finally, about my occasional levity. I believe in the maxim I heard long ago: "Take your work seriously and yourself lightly." The levity is because I don't take myself too seriously (if I ever do, please let me know). I take the work very seriously indeed. ...

    Posted by on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 01:19 AM in Development, Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (29)


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