Monday, January 14, 2008

The White Man's Burden

The White Man’s Burden” by Williams Easterly is basically a counterargument to “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs. In the book, Easterly argues that there have been two great tragedies among humanity – the first is that extreme poverty has taken place in a world where some have more than enough. The other great tragedy is that the attempts of West to eliminate this poverty have not worked, in fact, things may be getting worse.

Easterly divides the people seeking a solution to this problem of poverty into two categories: Planners and Searchers. Planners are people like Jeffrey Sachs, who sit behind desks and come up with these elaborate and expensive plans to fix complex problems. Easterly spends the majority of the book outlining why these big “plans” to eliminate poverty will not work and gives several examples of this.

The alternative for Easterly is the other group, called Searchers. Searchers, instead of developing big plans from afar, are seeking ways to partner with people in poverty and figuring out things on the ground. Searchers are those who seek organic solutions to the specific problems of a specific context.

In the end, I think I tended to side with Easterly in the way to move forward with this problem of poverty. However, I finished the book just as confused as ever about this issue. It just seems to be so big and so complex. Moreover, I feel so isolated from poverty due to my living context where everyone else seems to have so much. In my life, I have noticed that the issue of poverty tends to be overwhelming to the point of paralysis, but I know in my heart that this is not right. I think, like Easterly suggests, the way forward is to start small and start somewhere specific. The problem of poverty is not going away overnight, but it might get better for specific groups in specific places.

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