“In the long run, it does seem to be both necessary and sufficient to have political and economic liberty to achieve broad based development,”

Selling bread in Ghana

A leading development aid skeptic has told a conference of African economists and academics the key to ending poverty in Africa is not better development strategies but greater individual liberty.

New York University Professor William Easterly stunned a conference dedicated to fostering development in Africa by saying, for the most part, development strategies don’t work.

Easterly [says] planners and strategists would do better to listen to the crowds of small and medium sized businesses that have traditionally been the engine of economic growth. He says the best plan is to have no plan. “I think way too much effort is wasted on the overall development strategy. Now does that mean there’s nothing professionals and experts can do. No. I don’t say that. What we learned from what we observe in successful development is that they depend not on the wisdom of a single individual but on the wisdom of the crowds. The crowds of entrepreneurs, political entrepreneurs, economic private sectors entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, aid entrepreneurs,” he said.

He says the main cause of poor performance is that most strategies are designed by foreign experts rather than by the people themselves. “One thing in common to all success is that they are all home grown programs. They did not give power to outside experts. The guidance of the program was homegrown and not driven by foreign experts,” he said.

… it would be difficult to build a prosperous society in the absence of economic freedom. “In the long run, it does seem to be both necessary and sufficient to have political and economic liberty to achieve broad based development,” he said.

I haven’t had much time to write or even think lately. Easterly is interesting and his views and experience deserve a lot more attention, certainly more than just these notes here.

His recommendations appear to address the real question, in the words of Florin Gheorghe in Slumdog engineers of Suame magazine:

“… what poor people need most is a way to make more money …”

Easterly’s blog makes interesting reading, check the archives. The blog is:
AIDWATCH just asking that aid benefit the poor
Other articles worth a look include:

The Imperial Origins of State-Led Development
How the British Invented “Development” to Keep the Empire and Substitute for Racism
Day of mourning for military Development

and for a laugh:
African leaders advise Bono on reform of U2

h/t africa comments