In The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, William Easterly deconstructs the foreign aid system and highlights its flaws. Billions of dollars from the West are poured into developing countries every year, but the impacts are limited. While the states with the fastest-growing economies receive little to no aid, the overwhelming majority of those that receive the most aid have negative
The world of foreign aid is dominated by optimists who desire a utopian society, whom Easterly calls “planners.” Conversely, “searchers” direct foreign aid to communities from the bottom up, and understand that poverty is a complicated mixture of political, social, historical, and institutional factors. Searchers identify the needs of each area, and listen to feedback in order to maximize effectivity, while planners push the issues they choose. Easterly criticizes the planners, and emphasizes that the success of foreign aid is dependent upon a searcher mentality. The analysis is clear and well thought out, with ample graphs and statistics to support his arguments. Before each chapter, Easterly provides “snapshots,” case studies in developing regions. The snapshots are not only fascinating, but they also give insight into the realities of living in poverty.
While Easterly focuses on the faults of foreign aid, he rarely identifies clear solutions. He does indicate that searchers are the key to transforming the world of foreign aid, but fails to address how to go about invoking a searcher mentality. Easterly educates the reader about the failures of aid from the West, but leaves the reader questioning how to improve the system.
About the Author
Kaiti Carpenter is a pre-med student at Oklahoma University.