Easterly Pushes for ‘Spontaneous Development’

    A woman sells tomatoes in Africa with the help of microfinance loans. Successful development happens when free individuals are allowed to make their own choices and solve their own problems with the use of foreign and local technology, says Bill Easterly. Photo by: Phil Hatchard / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Phil HatchardCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Successful development can happen only if obstacles faced by free individuals in developing countries are slowly removed to allow these people to solve their own problems, Bill Easterly says in a talk with the John Templeton Foundation.

    Easterly describes the current development architecture where foreign aid is channeled through what he calls the mainstream development establishment as autocratic and paternalistic. This assembly line of development coming from the top and trickling down to individual beneficiaries is at odds with how development happened in countries that are now developed, the New York University professor explains in a video posted in the “Aid Watch” blog.

    Free individuals should be allowed to make their own choices and to solve their own problems using both foreign and local technology as well as the expertise both of insiders and outsiders, he says.

    He gives as example local entrepreneurship in Africa where a lot of locals have engaged in microenterprises such as growing and selling pineapples and exporting cut flowers.

    “It has to be free individuals making choices who are in charge of all of this,” Easterly says.

    In the talk, Easterly also emphasizes the importance of independent aid critics and their role in challenging the mainstream development industry.

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      Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.