Monthly Archives: April 2014

MEA Book Summary and Review: The Tyranny of Experts by William Easterly

MEA book summary and review: The Tyranny of Experts (William Easterly – March 3, 2014)

SUMMARY (scroll down for critique)

Paul Farmer meets Imperial Nature, Freakonomics, and Niall Ferguson in Professor Easterly’s latest work, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. Like Farmer, Easterly advocates for a rights-based approach to solving the problems of the poor, criticizing autocracy and top-down development models. He takes a more purely economic perspective and a deeper look into history than Goldman did in Imperial Nature, a work in which Goldman critiqued the World Bank’s approach to “green science” and “eco-governmentality” and the Bank’s infringements upon the rights of the poor. Like Freakonomics, Easterly uses statistics in a way that makes you rethink the data to get at the underlying phenomena, and like Ferguson, he tells a larger history through small, fascinating snippets of story woven into the larger narrative. The Tyranny of Experts pulls together story, data, and theory to question top-down models of economic development, arguing that recent success attributed to autocratic states (such as Singapore, Taiwan, and China) might be attributed to many other factors. Historically, economic growth has happened primarily when more individual freedom is granted; furthermore, since individual freedom is desirable in itself, we should never be willing to sacrifice rights for economic growth, as the development community has been wont to do over the past 60 years. Continue reading